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Partially blind kelpie crowed Cobber Challenge champion

AFTER a gruelling three-week competition that saw the fastest and fiercest working dogs battle it out on farms across Australia and New Zealand, Tasmanian farmer Alex Johns and his kelpie Earl have been crowned the 2023 Cobber Challenge champions.

Staff Writer
 Kelpie Earl crowned Cobber Challenge champion. Photo courtesy of Cobber.

Kelpie Earl crowned Cobber Challenge champion. Photo courtesy of Cobber.

In a record-breaking win, three-year-old Earl covered 1343 kilometres while mustering over a 21-day period and became the fastest ever Cobber Challenge competitor at an impressive average speed of 14.1 kilometres an hour.
The 2023 cohort of 11 paw-some finalists covered a combined total of over 6000kms across sprawling mountain ranges, lush green paddocks and red-dirt desert, as they were judged on distance, duration and speed over the three weeks.
The Cobber Challenge aims to celebrate the unique partnership between farmers and their working dogs, offering the champion duo a trophy, $3000 cash prize, 12 bags of Cobber Working Dog feed and for the first time in the competition's history - a new puppy apprentice, courtesy of Pandara Kelpies.
Johns said he was rapt to take home the win and couldn't be prouder of his best mate Earl.
"I knew we were in with a chance because 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," Johns said.
"It's an even bigger achievement for Earl because he's blind in one eye, but that doesn't stop him on the farm. His quality of work is top notch.
"I'm so proud to see him come out on top and I couldn't be more thrilled to welcome another addition to my working dog team."
Former Cobber Challenge champion, Brad McDonald, was working on the same farm as Johns when he took out the title and says he's proud to see another winner from Tasmania.
"When I won the Cobber Challenge in 2017 with my dog Flo, Alex was working alongside us so to see him and Earl bring it home this year, it's a really special moment," McDonald said.
"Alex has done a great job with Earl and it's a credit to him. Earl is a great working dog and he got some great numbers this year."
McDonald added farm work, especially with sheep and cattle, would cease to exist without working dogs.
"They're the only worker on a farm who does more than 50 kilometres on their feet every day and they do it all for a pat at the end of the day and a scoop of biscuits, Cobber of course!" he said.
Cobber marketing manager, Kellie Savage, said she was blown away by the speed and tenacity of this year's competitors.
"In the eight years the challenge has been running, I've not seen a field of competitors this impressive. These dogs are lightning fast," Savage said.
"All of our competitors reached average top speeds of around 60 kilometres an hour.
"We are constantly in awe of these dogs. Some of our 2023 Cobber competitors covered more than 80 kilometres in a single day.
"They are the backbone of working farms everywhere. It's hard to imagine what agriculture in Australia and New Zealand would be like without them."
Victoria duo Dan and dog Jack came in second with a total distance of 1,263.4km, to win a cash prize of $1000 and six bags of Cobber Working Dog feed.
Third place went to Jackson and working dog Rose from the Northern Territory, who covered 822 kilometres. They have won $500 and three bags of feed.
The final standings for the 2023 Cobber Challenge and more information on the challenge and 2023 champions can be found here.

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