THREE new world record prices - £20,000 for a fully broken working sheep dog, £4,200 for an eight-month-old part-broken bitch and £3,700 for an unbroken five-month-old pup – have been established.

They were set at a virtual online sale at Skipton Auction Mart, the first two by top Welsh breeder and triallist, Kevin Evans, the other by Irishman Donal Mullaney, the third consecutive world record price he has achieved at the North Yorkshire venue, all with pups from the same litter.

Mr Evans, of Llwynfedwen Farm, near Brecon in Powys, established the £20,000 highest price ever paid for a dog at an official sale, with his a tri-coloured bitch Henna, who will turn four next month.

It eclipsed the previous world record price of £19,451 for a bitch sold earlier this year at a virtual sale in Wales – and by Kevin’s father no less, Brecon triallist David Evans. This pipped the former world record price of £18,900 established at Skipton in February - the last live dog sale before lockdown – by another bitch from Northumberland shepherdess Emma Gray.

Fully broken and already described as a class act with many trials placings, Henna is a daughter of Mr Evans’ own Moss, a red dog that won a couple of nursery trials before being sold privately to Norway a few years back. The dam is fellow Welsh breeder Ian Fowler’s Fran, whose own father was Mr Evans’ old Jaff, a dog that won multiple trials at the highest level and also successfully represented the Welsh national team on several occasions.

The new world record price sheep dog returned to South Wales when claimed by Black Mountains hill farmer Donna Jones, who had first viewed online video footage of the dog being put though her paces, then made the half hour trip to Kevin’s farm on the final morning of the sale to work Henna herself, before joining the online bidding frenzy for the top-notch prospect.

“And, believe me, I had to press the online bidding button many times as the price rose and rose in order to get her!” said Mrs Jones. “However, Henna reminded me so much of my old home-bred bitch, Tikka, being exactly the same colour. She is the spitting image, so I just had to have her.”

Mrs Jones farms on her husband and father-in-law’s farm at Llanbedr, Crickhowell, and Henna will be put to work on the family’s two sheep flocks comprising 500 Suffolk-cross ewes and 250 Welsh Mountain ewes, as well as store cattle.

Born and bred in Cwmdu, which stands at the heart of the Black Mountains, the new owner of the world’s most expensive working sheep dog has a lifelong love of the breed, both working and breeding them ever since being a child growing up on the family farm run by her parents, Mr and Mrs Greenhow.

In years gone by, Mrs Jones used to trial sheep dogs locally and says she has aspirations to return to the trials field now that her three children – Bethan, Ryan, and Megan – are fast growing up.

Kevin Evans, who has set the working sheep dog world alight with multiple top price and other leading four-figure sales this year alone at Skipton, had two further standout successes with impeccably bred bitches at the autumn fixture, both carrying bloodlines from some of the Welsh handler’s top dogs.

He achieved second top call of £13,500 with a fully broken two-and-a-half-year-old Welsh-bred black, white and mottled bitch, Floss, by Gerard Lewis’s Sam, out of Roy Price’s Nell, who is herself by Mr Evan’s own Caleb and whose breeding goes back to another of his famous dogs, Mirk, a former International Supreme Champion and dual World Sheep Dog Trials finalist. Like several of Mr Evans’ past Skipton sales, Floss found a new home across the pond in the United States with a buyer from Oklahoma who requested anonymity.

He then sold a much younger eight-month-old part-broken bitch, Nant-y-Moel Tara, for £4,200, itself thought to be the highest price ever paid at an official sale for a dog under ten months-old. She is by Mr Evans’ own Tanhill Glen, a dual European Nursery and Royal Welsh Champion, out of Floyd Farthing’s Wheatwood Sue, a daughter of Mr Evans’ European Nursery Champion and dual Welsh and International Brace Champion, Derwen Doug.

Tara found a new home on Orkney off the north-eastern coast of Scotland with Sean Cursiter, who farms sheep and cattle at the family-run Laga Farms in Evie, home to flocks of 750 pure Lleyns and 280 New Zealand Romneys, along with a 100-strong suckler cow herd. As well as working on the farm he also has a farm contracting arm undertaking work with his dogs and travelling extensively across the UK as a sheep shearer and as far south as Devon and Cornwall.

Mr Cursiter, 31, also hit the headlines last year when crowned ‘Britain’s Fittest Farmer’ after beating hundreds of competitors in a UK wide competition designed to promote mental and physical health in agriculture.

He first took a fancy to Tara after seeing her at work via online video footage, before entering the online bidding. “She appeared a class dog who I could bring on. I also wanted a bitch to breed from and eventually start selling my own dogs,” explained Mr Cursiter.

Donal Mullaney, from Letterkenny in Co. Donegal, shattered his world record pup prices of £2,700 and £2,350 at Skipton’s previous two online sales with his latest £3,700 Jack, a litter mate of his two top-performing forerunners.

Jack is yet another top-notch son of fellow Irishman Martin Feeney’s famous trials dog, also Jack, a multiple Open trials winner, semi-finalist in the both the 2014 and 2017 World Sheep Dog Trials, finalist in two Supreme Trials and placed in the Irish National team on no less than seven occasions. The dam is Mr Mullaney’s own Nell, who is herself by Lad, a renowned Irish dog from Roscommon’s Pat Byrne.

The new world record price pup returned to Co. Donegal when sold to a very good friend of the Mullaneys, Michael McHugh, of Milford, who describes himself as a part-time sheep farmer. He has sold dogs himself at Skipton and is planning to use Jack for breeding. “Then I can perhaps sell more dogs and beat Donal on price!” he quipped.

Mr Mullaney stepped up with a further unbroken pup from the same litter again, this one a tri-coloured dog, Ted, who was knocked down for £2,050 to another successful online bid from Co. Donegal.

The prolific Irish handler also consigned a third solidly bred dog, this one a fully broken three-year-old black and white bitch, Dollar, by top Irish triallist James McGee’s 2014 Supreme Champion, Glencregg Silver, whose own dam, Becca, was the 2011 World Sheep Dog Trials champion and twice Irish National Champion.

Out of Anthony Friel’s Nell, Dollar, who has been successfully mated on several occasions to Paul O’Donnell’s 2018 International Champion Tim, lastly in August, completed an excellent day for Mr Mullaney when becoming the highest price Irish dog at £4,600. It returned there when claimed by M&M Cunningham, from Newcastle in Co. Down, and will be used solely as a work dog on both lowland and hill sheep.

The Mullaney family has this year taken the working sheep dog world by storm with pups from the same litter - Nell had five in total, three dogs and two bitches. Mr Mullaney’s wife, Leanne, said: “Dad Jack and mum Nell are clearly a canine match made in heaven. To produce so many top-class offspring in the same litter is a rarity and we are over the moon to have set a world record price pup hat-trick at Skipton.

“We still have one bitch pup left which we will train and keep for future breeding. She’s got everything Donal wants in a young dog - looks, class, style and a great desire to work. So we are keeping our figures crossed for some more good pups in the future!”

Back with the Welsh, Dewi Jenkins, another leading handler from Tynygraig Farm, Tal-y-bont, near Aberystwyth in Ceredigion, who regularly achieves high prices at Skipton – he claimed a new world record price of £12,000 for a dog under a year of age in July with a ten-month-old - was right up there again with a £7,800 sale.

It fell to his 18-month-old fully broken home-bred dog,Clwyd Bill, by his own main stud dog Jock, who has sired some past leading price performers at Skipton and with whom Mr Jenkins will be represented at next year’s World Sheep Dog Trials at Castle Howard Estate, near York. He is Welsh team captain.

Out of E Edwards’ Clwyd Mali, a daughter of top Irish triallist James McGee’s Glencregg Silver, among many other trials successes the 2014 Supreme Champion, the exciting nursery prospect found a new home in Cumbria with another buyer who asked not to be named.

Next best at £6,900, the top price achieved by a dog from Scotland, fell to a two-year-old brown and white fully broken dog whose vendors requested no publicity. The accomplished all-rounder, a full brother to Spot, another first-rate trials dog from Kevin Evans, joined Andrew Procter in Great Musgrave, Kirkby Stephen. The sheep and cattle farming family are regular buyers of Skipton-sold dogs and Mr Procter said he may well trial his new acquisition.

Six dogs sold at £4,000-plus, headed at £4,700 by Glen, a two-year-old black and tan dog from Dyfed Davies, of Sir Benfro in south-west Wales. Described by the vendor as a ‘pure- bred grizzly type Huntaway,’ both parents are New Zealand imports, Glen returned to Wales with Will Jones, of Llandrindod Wells in Powys.

Richard Crowe, a familiar face from the Isle of Man, hit £4,600 with his February, 2019, black and white bitch, Ski, another fully bred Pat Byrne dog, by his much acclaimed Moss, out of Grace. Ski is also bound to the United States and a new home in Colorado with Mike Mikkelson.

Co. Donegal handlers are always well represented at Skipton and another, O McLaughlin, from Bun A Bhaile, claimed £4,000 with his 15-month old black and white dog, Shep, fully bred by another Irish trialling legend, James McLaughlin, being by his Dan (Ben), twice Irish National champion, Supreme runner-up and also winner of “One Man and His Dog,’ out of Jess. Shep was knocked down to regular Welsh buyer Nigel Watkins, of Panthowell, Carmarthenshire.

A trio of dogs each made £4,100. First up was R Watson, from North Tawton, Devon, with his 17-month-old black, white and mottled Cap, sold into Scotland, followed by North Wales dog trainer Sion Jones, who runs Cefn Eithin Sheep Dogs in Corwen, with his 17-month-old black, white and mottled dog Cap, claimed by Frank Hickson, of Jedburgh, then Irish vendor N Maguire, from Co. Fermanagh, with his ten-month-old black and white dog, Bill, who remained in Ireland when claimed by Co. Down’s Mike Grant.

Regular Irish vendors, the Byrne family, from Knockcroghery in Co. Roscommon, headed up by Pat Byrne, successfully sold six part-broken and unbroken dogs for over £12,000 in total.

Among them were three nine-month-olds from the same litter – an unbroken bitch, Meg, the family’s joint top price sale at £3,200, a part-broken black and white dog, Logue, at £1,550, and an unbroken tri-coloured dog, Ben, at £1,500.

The other joint top price £3,200 sale was for Don, an August, 2019, part-broken black and white dog, the Byrne offering completed at £2,600 for their youngest dog, Sam, just three-months-old.

Of the 67 dogs offered for sale online at the annual autumn fixture, 44 found new homes at an overall selling average of £3,522, compared to the previous virtual sale’s £3,487

While the UK’s leading sheep dog sales venue is renowned for selling dogs at some astronomical prices, it also continues to offer a varied cross-section of readily affordable dogs, both solid broken entries for work and up-and-coming youngsters to further bring on and run in trials.

Eleven dogs made from £3,000 to £3,900, with another seven selling from £2,000 up to £2,800 twice, a further 12 making from £1,000 to £1,700 twice, and two more selling at £750.