Source: Kids News (Extract)
Posted: October 31, 2023

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 1,343km 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 $3,000 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.