A game about herding an animal; done? how should it be done?
August 3, 2010 7:05 AM   Subscribe

I have an idea for a real-life game involving herding animals. Has this been done? and how should it be done?

I had an idea for a real-life game. My question is twofold; 1. has this game been invented before? and 2. Is this something I should develop and how? Can you suggest rules or something to make this a viable idea?

The basic idea for this game is it is like soccer, except instead of playing it with a ball, you play it with an animal, like a sheep, or a bull, or something which is not friendly. You and your team try to herd the animal through the enemy goalposts, while keeping them from doing this to you. You are not allowed to touch the animal or have the animal touch you. The goalie maybe can touch the animal. If you touch the animal you get a time out. Efforts would be made to make sure the animal is not hurt or unduly stressed but the biggest problem I can see is that people would think it is cruel to the animal and thats why I am posting this anonymously because I don't want people to think I am cruel to animals.

The idea is so simple I am thinking I must have heard of this before in some herding culture or something, but I can't think of any. Also if you think it might be a fun game for a 4H group or a rodeo, can you suggest other rules we should incorporate?
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think it works to have two people try and herd an animal in different directions. It just gets confused and runs away from both of them.
posted by smackfu at 7:08 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes could be (and in all likelihood would be) cruel. Herding is done to move animals from one location to another not bounce them around like a ball. Chasing an animal around for two halves/3 periods/4 quarters will always be stressful unless you find an animal like a dog that would enjoy the game as much as the people. Finding a dog that liked to play keep away might work.
posted by Silvertree at 7:13 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

They do have sheep herding trials for dogs. This video gives a sense of how hard this is.

I'm not sure humans could even play this game very well. The dogs are very fast, can turn on a dime, and the sheep are instinctively afraid of them.
posted by smackfu at 7:18 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Competitive herding already exists in the form of sheepdog trials, but I agree with smackfu that trying to herd an animal in two different directions may be unnecessarily stressful for the sheep. Especially if you have a goalkeeper trying the catch the sheep.
posted by afx237vi at 7:19 AM on August 3, 2010

As someone who spent an hour last night trying to shoo a bat out of the house, I can attest that an animal who is being forced to go someplace that it doesn't want to go becomes a very stressed animal; I really felt sorry for the bat towards the end. Rodeos are a good comparison, and the problem people have with rodeos isn't just the physical contact between the cowboy and the animal -- the animals get scared by being chased around, they are held in small cages to encourage them to bolt when the door is opened, and they don't have a choice in participating in the "game". Silvertree's example of getting a trained dog to participate, then you've got an animal that wants to play along.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:22 AM on August 3, 2010

As several people have noted, the game as you describe it would just drive the animal crazy. However, it is probably possible (but not easy) to design some kind of robot which could be sent in any direction by use of a remote control device much like a TV remote control, which only operates on line of sight, so you have to get in position to use it, and hit a fairly small target on the robot that senses the incoming messages. Then you might be able to make this into a game. It makes at least as much sense as the robot demolition derbys in which two robots try to destroy each other.
posted by grizzled at 7:38 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Being herded is inherently stressful. Herding is simply modified hunting behavior. A herding does its work by intimidating the sheep in various ways depending on the breed of dog--pushing on the herd animal's "space bubble," giving it eye, nipping at its heels, barking, etc. I do think this would be cruel in that you'd be stressing the herd animals for no purpose other than your own entertainment. At herding trials, at least, the goal is to identify good herding dogs with the goal of improving the breed so that they can continue to do useful agricultural work.
posted by HotToddy at 8:06 AM on August 3, 2010

Just from a perception standpoint, I would have trouble with the concept no matter how many measures you told me were being taken to ensure that the animals were not stressed/hurt/upset. In my mind, for the game to be effective there would be some stress and discomfort for any animals involved.

Totally aside from that, I envision kids seeing that game and (unintentionally) tormenting family pets or wildlife by trying to recreate it at home. And it might reinforce animals equal playthings.
posted by mrs. taters at 8:09 AM on August 3, 2010

There's certainly traditions of events like that in smaller towns in the west. The country town I grew up in used to have porcupine races every year - but they were found by the regulatory agencies to be animal cruelty and finally shut down a few years ago. I agreed with that decision. The porcupines were trapped by the racers (just for the event) and then brooms were smacked on the ground behind them to make them run down the race track. It was also against the rules to touch them.
posted by jardinier at 8:16 AM on August 3, 2010

You might also be interested in Triebball, a new game in which humans and dogs work together to herd giant inflatable exercise balls into a goal.
posted by HotToddy at 8:19 AM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

as others have noted this is basically sheepdog trials without the sheepdogs.
Sheepdog trials are still televised in the UK on the BBC, though with much less frequency than in their heyday (in the 1980s, the sheepdog trial show One Man and His Dog would attract up to 8 million viewers)
posted by Bwithh at 8:30 AM on August 3, 2010

In Afganistan, Buzkashi is a traditional sport. It involves the movement of a (admittedly dead) goat/calf across a goal line by horseback riding teams.
posted by CharlieSue at 8:41 AM on August 3, 2010

So you want to be a border collie? There is more to herding than just blocking and pushing forward. Look at their stance, stare, crouch, when to stay still.

For humans against animal, it won't work as efficiently.
posted by stormpooper at 8:45 AM on August 3, 2010

You are describing something very similar to Team Penning.
posted by COD at 9:14 AM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

There are a number of equestrian sports that are similar to your idea although they involve herding an animal against the clock or points for technique rather than competing head to head. See cutting, campdrafting, ranch sorting, and working cow horse, in addition to the team penning linked above.
posted by TedW at 9:36 AM on August 3, 2010

This idea is NOTHING like sheep dog trials, team penning or rodeo. In those cases one or more people and an animal work to quickly and efficently move livestock around. Keeping them calm is the POINT. Events last seconds to a minute or two and the animals are returned to the comfort of their herd. (Small pens make sheep and cattle feel much safer and calmer btw, and reduces injuries for whoever thought that was abuse.).

Having two opposing "teams" chase some poor animal back and forth for minutes or hours would probably kill the animal. It's incredibly cruel and the exact opposite of a sheepdog trial or a team penning.

I can't believe people can't see the difference here.
posted by fshgrl at 10:45 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Calvin Trillin wrote an awesome piece, collected in "Alice, Let's Eat", about a French sport named "taureau piscine" or "bull swimming pool." It's very simple: there are human players, a small children's wading pool, and a bull. If a player is in the pool at the same time as the bull, the player gets a point. It's that simple.

The inventor of taureau piscine also invented taureau futbol, which is a regular game of soccer, except there's a bull on the field. Which raises the question of whether the best strategy is just to play the best soccer you can, while keeping an eye out for the bull, or to try to get the bull to charge the opposing goalie.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 4:49 PM on August 3, 2010

To answer your first question: yes, it has been done before. "Sheep soccer" was a one time feature in MLF, a Belgian tv series.
You can watch a short video here, but it requires Silverlight.

Regarding your second question: No, it doesn't sound like a good idea. This game would be inherently stressful for the animals involved. Also, have you ever been hit in the stomach by a running sheep? I can assure you that it's more painful than you're imagining at the moment. Let alone being trampled by a bull.

Mind you, I can see where you are coming from, but realistically speaking? No, very bad idea for all involved, humans as well as animals.
posted by lioness at 6:31 PM on August 3, 2010

I think it would make more sense to try and get an animal to come to you willingly, as opposed to trying to force it to go somewhere.
posted by redsparkler at 6:53 PM on August 3, 2010

The inventor of taureau piscine also invented taureau futbol, which is a regular game of soccer, except there's a bull on the field.

If my childhood is any indication the bull will eat grass and completely ignore your silly game.
posted by fshgrl at 7:20 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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