Sheepdog Brenna’s a world record-breaker

Northumberland shepherdess Emma Gray is on top of the world, after one of her sheepdogs brought a record price at auction.

Friday, 1st March 2019, 6:00 am
Shepherdess Emma Gray and Brenna. Picture by Moule Media

Two-year-old Brenna was sold to an American buyer for £14,700, a new world record price for a working sheepdog bitch.

Emma, who farms on the remote National Trust-owned Fallowlees Farm at Harwood Forest, only narrowly failed to match the all-time world record price of £14,805, also established at Skipton Auction Mart three years ago.

World record-breaking Brenna. Picture by Moule Media

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She said: “I am over the moon, absolutely delighted.”

Brenna had attracted tremendous pre-sale interest, both from at home and overseas.

On sale day, several telephone bidders from the United States competed fiercely to buy her.

The successful bidder was Dr Pamela Helton, who farms in Maryland and has a flock of 60 Swedish Gotland sheep. She also runs dogs in United States Border Collie Handlers Association trials in the eastern and mid-western US.

“I already have many plans for Brenna. She is slated to be my farm and primary trial dog and I am strongly considering importing her in whelp (pregnant) to the US. A potential sire is under consideration,” she said.

As a condition of the sale, Brenna was allowed to compete two days later in the English Nursery Final at Hutton in the Forest in Cumbria.

Although she put in a good run, she didn’t finish in the top 10, though Emma did become English Nursery Champion with another of her dogs, Telf Joff.

Emma has already made her mark in the sheepdog trialing world.

She began working with dogs at the age of 13, and later became the first woman to win the prestigious Northumberland Sheepdog Trials League in the contest’s four-decade history.

She was also English Nursery Champion and Reserve National Champion with another dog, Tweeddale Jamie, a son of celebrated International Reserve Supreme Champion Sweep, with whom Emma also represented the English team that won gold in the International Sheep Dog Society’s 2017 World Sheep Dog Trials in the Netherlands.

Emma first took over the 150-acre Fallowlees Farm at the age of 23, becoming the UK’s youngest solo shepherdess in the process.

She found fame in 2012 when she penned a memoir of her solitary life, called One Girl and Her Dog, in which she chronicled how difficult it was to find a husband.

Dubbed Britain’s loneliest shepherdess, she has since featured on national TV in the BBC’s Countryfile, ITV’s Flockstars, Robson Green’s Tales from Northumberland series and on the Alan Titchmarsh Show.

The story had a happy ending when Emma found love and last September she tied the knot with fireman Ewan Irvine.

The couple are now expecting their first child in a couple of months.

Fallowlees has a 400-strong flock of sheep and a commercial suckler cattle herd.

Ewan is himself competing with success at open level on the trials field.