One Man and His Dog
Phil Drabble (1976-93) with Eric Halsall (1976-90), Ray Ollrenshaw (1991-3)
Robin Page and Gus Dermody (1994-1999)
Clarissa Dickson-Wright and Robin Page (2000)
Clarissa Dickson-Wright (2001)
Ben Fogle with Shauna Lowry (2003-6)
Ben Fogle with Matt Baker & Gus Dermody (2007)
Kate Humble with Matt Baker & Gus Dermody (2008-11)
Matt Baker and Michaela Strachan with Gus Dermody (2012)
BBC 2, 17 February 1976 to 13 March 1999 (regular series)
Annual specials: 1999 to 2012
BBC One, 27 October 2013- (as special editions of Countryfile)
It's been many hundreds of years since animals have been put up for trial (hello to our readers in Hartlepool). Maybe for crimes they didn't commit. The tradition was brought back crash bang into the Twentieth Century with One Man and His Dog, a television programme about sheepdog trials.
Three shepherds, who each owned a sheepdog attempted to whistle and "come by" their way through the show. Each competitor typically had to get their dog to guide some sheep through a gate, into a ring (where they'd have to separate a certain sheep from the rest) and then into a pen, all the while being given marks by judges. The sheep generally played up quite a bit, but nobody had the clever idea of just shouting "mint sauce!" or somesuch.
The vets at BBC 2 head office finally put the programme to sleep as we approached the new millennium. They didn't quite succeed in killing it off, though, as it still lives on in the form of annual specials. The (at one point seriously mooted) idea of Sky buying it and renaming it Sky One Man and His Dog was just silly, really.
Rumours surface from time to time about a full-scale comeback, but realistically it's not going to happen. Even after Countryfile turned Matt Baker into a bona fide star, the dividend for One Man and His Dog was a live series over a weekend in September 2012 - the second episode had to be recorded for transmission a week later when the golf over-ran.
We always wanted to sheep to win, actually.
In 1996, special programmes featuring younger contestants were shown. The name? Young Man and His Dog. Awww...
Obscure horse and country TV channel Horse & Country TV launched their own version in 2007 called Come-Bye!, again hosted by Robin Page, but instead of holding their own contests they just went along and filmed the regular national dog trial competitions. They actually wanted to use the One Man and His Dog name, but the BBC wouldn't let them, on the not-unreasonable grounds that they were still using it themselves.
The Gaelic-language channel BBC Alba also aired a sheepdog trials series, Farpaisean Chon-Chaorach, in 2008. The hosts were Dòmhnall MacSuain (Donald MacSween) and Catrìona Nic a Phì (Catriona MacPhee) but like "Come-Bye!", they covered existing dog trials rather than staging their own. It's actually proven to be a bit of a hit (insofar as something can be a hit on a channel that barely registers on the ratings even at the best of times) and now appears to be well-established as a returning series. We did see a repeat on the even more stupendously obscure (and now defunct) Tele-G channel and it's very similar to 1M&HD indeed, though it could use some proper score graphics. We were particularly impressed by the quality of the Scottish sheep, which aren't the sort to take orders from anybody, least of all some over-excited mutt and a bloke with a weedy little whistle. Go sheep!
If the dog's running Clockwise, it's "Come by", and for Anticlockwise it's "Away". So now you know.
*whistle* "Come by!"
Alan Benson. The theme was finally updated in 2012 - the new version is a similar arrangement but with a piano replacing the ever-so-70s lead synth of the original.
One Man and His Dog book by Phil Drabble
Weaver's Week review (2012)