Northumberland shepherdess becomes first female champion

A shepherdess from Northumberland has become the first woman to win a sheepdog trials league

Shepherdess Emma Gray with her Indian Runner ducks
Shepherdess Emma Gray with her Indian Runner ducks

A shepherdess from Northumberland has become the first woman to win a sheepdog trial championship in its almost 40 year history.

Emma Gray, who lives and works on a farm near Elsdon, has become the first female winner of the Northumberland Sheepdog Trials League since it was formed in 1976.

Emma last night spoke of her delight at cracking something of a male bastion while league bosses praised her for achieving the milestone.

Emma, 27, who runs Fallowlees Farm on her own, began running dogs at the age of 13, but began competing aged 21.

For the last five years, she has run with her six year old dog Roy, who she has had since he was a puppy.

The league sees upwards of 30 dogs competing in 25 trials over the course of a season.

Competitors come from all over Northumberland as well as the South of Scotland, Durham and Cumbria - although only those from the organising county receive points towards the championship.

Emma has now won the league - by she claims a “good margin” - making her the first woman to win the championship.

Only around a handful of females compete in the largely male orientated sport, although numbers are said to be slowly rising.

Emma said: “There are not many (women), but they are getting more and more. Men are definitely still the majority. In farming in general, farming and trailing, agriculture I think is male dominated.”

Having collected a clutch of trophies for trial wins over the course of the season, she will soon be adding the overall title to her collection.

“It was always my ambition to win. When I first started competing at the very first trial there was a shepherd sat in the judge’s car who put money on me to win. That was my first trial. I am pleased to have won him his bet.” Bevis Jordan, chairman of the league, said: “I can not remember any other women winning. It has always been won by a man before that. It is a good achievement for her because she has not been trialling for very long.

“She has been consistently good all through this season.

“There are one or two women that compete as well but she is strong competition for everybody at the minute.

“There does seem to be a few more women willing to participate in this sport now.”

Emma featured in The Journal last year after breaking her back in a quad bike accident. However, she has since made a full recovery.

She said: “It does not give me any problems, it might do when I am old but for the time being I am okay.”

Emma penned a book during her first year on the farm called One Girl and Her Dogs; Life, Love and Lambing in the Middle of Nowhere.

She also hit the headlines after launching a quest to find a Mr Right to join her on the farm.


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