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All American Sheep Day showcases sheep industry during Black Hills Stock Show

January 27, 2023

BROOKINGS, S.D. – Don’t forget about the sheep during this year’s Black Hills Stock Show. 

To showcase South Dakota’s long history and continuing tradition of sheep production, SDSU Extension, the Black Hills Stock Show and sheep industry partners will again host All American Sheep Day on Jan. 30 at the James Kjerstad Event Center at the Central States Fairgrounds in Rapid City. 

It is a full day of family friendly activities, with something for all ages and interests. Jaelyn Whaley, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist, said the day brings producers together to give people a taste of the sheep industry and its scope. 

“Altogether, I think it just shows the passion that goes into our industry,” Whaley said. 

Activities for the day include Mutton Bustin’, the National Sheep Shearing Championships and Sheep Dog Trials. Sheep Shearing and Sheep Dog trials start at 10 a.m. MT; the Sheep Dog finals start at 7 p.m. MT and Mutton Bustin’ starts at 6:30 p.m. MT.

Mutton Bustin’, a popular event at rodeos, features small children, ages 3 to 6, trying to stay on a sheep for up to 8 seconds. The sheep shearing competition awards points based on a shearer’s speed and skill, judging both the handling of the fleece and the safety of the animal. It is a qualifying round for the World Sheep Shearing Championship that will be held this year in Edinburgh, Scotland. Competitors earn points to determine who will be on Team USA. It also gives people a rare look into a skilled trade that gets little attention, Whaley said. 

“It’s all such an art,” Whaley said, noting that professional sheep shearers often shear tens of thousands of sheep each year. “I think it’s one of those things we do every day that people who aren’t directly connected to the sheep industry can come see for a day.”

Whaley said the competition brings in shearers of all experience levels, from beginners to veterans who teach shearing schools across the country. Not only is it fascinating to watch, Whaley said it can be a fantastic chance for someone who wants to get started to connect with other shearers. 

“They’re amazing mentors,” she said. “If someone is interested, it can definitely help them get started.” 

One of the highlights of the day includes the sheep dog trials, a fast-paced event testing the agility of both dog and handler in sorting sheep in and out of various pens. Whaley said she is always amazed at the dog-handler relationship, and the working dog’s respect for both the handler and the sheep they so carefully herd. 

“They’re just a ton of fun to watch,” Whaley said. 

There will also be free lamb samples and lamb dishes for sale at the concession stand, along with educational displays, art vendors, and other South Dakota lamb and wool products available for purchase. 

Tickets for the day are $20 per adult or $10 per child and are available at Children 6 and under get in free. 

For more information, contact Jaelyn Whaley, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist.