21 July 2024

Tasmania’s Earl claims title of Australasia’s hardest working dog

After a gruelling 21 day competition that saw working dogs battle it out on farms across Australia and New Zealand, Tasmania’s Kelpie Earl has officially been crowned the winner of the 2023 Cobber Challenge.

Sheep and cattle farmer from Fingal in Tasmania, Alex Johns and his 3-year-old Kelpie Earl covered a total distance of 1,343 kms – running further than Sydney to Sunshine Coast in 21 days, and claimed the coveted title.

Johns and Earl were also the speediest duo in the competition, hitting an average top speed of 14.1 kms an hour, making Earl the fastest ever Cobber Challenge competitor.

Tenacious Earl from Tassie is partially-blind and has been working on farm since he was a pup.

The 2023 Cobber Challenge honours the unsung heroes who keep Australia and New Zealand’s $100 billion agricultural sector moving: the paws-itive champions of the industry – the working dog.

Alex & Earl
Alex Johns with his dog Earl, winner of Cobbler Challenge 2023

The 12 canine competitors – Kelpies, Collies, Crosses and Heading dogs, wore a GPS tracker to record their distance, speed and suration each work day, with points accumulated based on performance. For the first time in the Challenge’s history, data was collected over a period of three months.

But it wasn’t enough to keep up with Alex and Earl’s consistency. The duo outclassed the field to take home the title, the trophy, a $3000 cash prize, 12 bags of Cobber Working Dog feed and for the first time in the competition’s history – a brand-new puppy apprentice for Earl, courtesy of Pandara Kelpies.

A shortlist of 11 of the fastest and fiercest mustering champions -including three from New Zealand, were assessed on speed, duration and distance covered over the competition period. This year’s cohort saw multiple records smashed, including a new record for the fastest dog.

Kelsie Meads of Lake Coleridge(NZ) and her dog Sass were ranked 6th

Alex Johns says he’s rapt to take home the win and he 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 and Earl has been working harder than ever,” said Johns.

“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.”

Cobber Marketing Manager Kellie Savage says she was blown away by the speed and tenacity of this year’s competitors.

“These dogs are lightning fast. All of our competitors reached average top speeds of around 60 kms an hour (and) 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,” Savage said.

Taking out second place was Dan and Jack from Victoria who covered a total distance of 1,263.4 kms, and third place went to Jackson and Rose from the Northern Territory, who covered 822 kms.

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