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Monday, September 7, 1998 Published at 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK


Blind Ben's top dog bid

One of the tests in the International Sheepdog Trials is to round up 50 sheep

A virtually blind Border Collie, who lost most of his sight as a puppy, is pursuing the title of Britain's top sheepdog despite his disability.

Six-year-old Ben cannot judge distances and only sees blurred images, but that has not stopped him from being chosen to represent Wales at the International Sheepdog Trials in Scotland this week.

Ben first lost the sight of his left eye through a detached retina after he was kicked by a cow protecting its calf. Later, an infection in his right eye reduced its vision by half.

Sheepdog showdown

Ben will be one of 150 sheepdogs from across Britain competing for the title.

It will involve him and his master driving and cutting-out five sheep in a timed field event. They will also be hoping for the Supreme honours in the Driving Dog Competition, where Ben will drive and manoeuvre 50 sheep.

His master, Henry Hughes, a hill farmer from Powys, gives his instructions in both English and Welsh. He says Ben is getting better at his job all the time.

'A good listener'

"Ben is brave and extremely intelligent. He is a very good listener and uses his hearing to make up for his lack of sight. He is probably my most successful sheepdog," he said.

"I do not think about his disability as I suppose he has grown up with me and we have just got used to one another. It is an achievement to be in the Welsh team for the international trials and I am confident he can do well."

Ben has been involved in top level competitions for the past four years.

He was in the Welsh team which competed in the event in Ireland last year when he finished a creditable 17th.

Ben's fading eyesight may mean he will have to give up his working life in a couple of years' time.

Then, says Mr Hughes, Ben can live out his remaining years in peace, sitting by the fire.

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