Tasmanian kelpie, Earl, takes out hardest-working dog in Australia title at 2023 Cobber challenge
A Tasmanian farmer is proud as punch after his four-legged friend, a half-blind kelpie named Earl, won the crown as the hardest working dog in Australia. Watch him in action
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Tasmanian farmer Alex Johns is the proud owner of the hardest-working dog in Australia and New Zealand after he and his best mate Earl were named winners of the 2023 Cobber Challenge.
The kelpie and Mr Johns beat 11 other Aussie and Kiwi* farmers and their furry companions by covering a whopping* distance of 1343km over the 21-day competition while working.
The annual challenge, organised by Australian dog food company Cobber, aims to celebrate the “unsung heroes” of the booming agricultural* industry – the working dog.
Assessed on his speed, duration* and distance covered over the competition period, three-year-old Earl managed average top speeds of 14.1kmh, becoming the fastest competitor ever.
Blind in one eye, Earl is also the only dog in the competition with a disability but owner Mr Johns said it “doesn’t hinder* him at all” when herding* sheep and cattle
“He’s got quite a nice scar over one of his eyes, but he does pretty well,” he said.
Mr Johns and Earl are taking a trophy home to their farm in Fingal as well as $3000 in prizemoney, 12 bags of dog food and a new puppy apprentice* for Earl, courtesy of Tasmanian breeder Pandara Kelpies.
Mr Johns thought the pair were “only in with a chance” of winning until a busy farming season kept Earl’s paws adding up the kilometres.
“We’ve had a seriously busy few months down here with a new shearing crew coming on board, so Earl has been working harder than ever,” Mr Johns said.
“We shore* about 34,000 ewes*, then we split them all up into their lambing paddocks, so Earl had a lot of work under his belt.”
Apart from being a loyal companion in the paddocks, Mr Johns said he couldn’t do his farming work without working dogs like Earl.
“They put in so much effort for so little reward – they only need a bit of food, bit of water and a bit of love; they don’t ask for much,” he said.
Earl will have a long-deserved rest from farm work as well as some “nice, juicy bones” following the win, Mr Johns said.
- Kiwi: nickname for people from New Zealand
- whopping: huge
- agricultural: to do with working on the land
- duration: time spent doing something
- hinder: to harm or negatively affect something
- herding: moving animals in a particular direction
- apprentice: someone who learns on the job
- shore: removed the wool from a sheep with clippers
- ewes: female sheep
1. How many kilometres did Earl travel over how many days?
2. What made Earl unique in the competition?
3. Why was it such a busy season for Earl?
4. How will Mr Johns reward Earl back at the farm?
5. What is the reason for hosting the Cobber Challenge each year?
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1. Working dog value
Apart from winning the Cobber Challenge for working dogs, Earl is an invaluable member of farmer Alex John’s team.
What is the value of a working dog such as Earl? Work with a partner to list all the social, emotional, and economical benefits for a farmer of having a good dog.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and social, Critical and Creative Thinking
How can Earl the working dog advocate for animals or humans living with a disability?
Does it impair his ability to get the job done?
What might Earl the dog say about blindness if dogs could talk?
Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking
1. Stretch your sentence
Look at the picture of Earl standing on the backs of the sheep.
Add three adjectives to describe Earl better.
Now add a verb to your list. What is Earl doing?
Add an adverb about how Earl performs the action.
Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.