After a gruelling 21 day competition that saw working dogs battle it out on farms across Australia and New Zealand, the winner of the 2023 Cobber Challenge has officially been crowned.
This year’s Cobber cohort covered more than 6,000 kilometres across sprawling mountain ranges, lush green paddocks and red-dirt desert but there can only be one champion.
Taking out the coveted title is Tasmanian farmer Alex Johns and his 3-year-old Kelpie Earl who covered a total distance of 1,343 kilometres in 21 days, reclaiming the title for the Island state.
The 2023 Cobber Challenge honours the unsung heroes who keep Australia and New Zealand’s $100 billion agricultural sector moving: the paws-itive champions of the industry – the working dog.
A shortlist of 11 of the fastest and fiercest mustering champions were assessed on speed, duration and distance covered over the competition period. This year’s cohort saw multiple records smashed, including a new record for the fastest dog.
Alex and Earl were also the speediest duo in the competition, hitting an average top speed of 14.1 kilometres an hour, making Earl the fastest ever Cobber Challenge competitor.
But it wasn’t enough to keep up with Alex and Earl’s consistency. The duo outclassed the field to take home the title, the trophy, a $3000 cash prize, 12 bags of Cobber Working Dog feed and for the first time in the competition’s history – a brand-new puppy apprentice for Earl, courtesy of Pandara Kelpies.
Alex Johns says he’s rapt to take home the win and he couldn’t be prouder of his best mate Earl.
“I knew we were in with a chance because we’ve had a seriously busy few months down here with a new shearing crew coming on board, so and Earl has been working harder than ever,” said Mr Johns.
“It’s an even bigger achievement for Earl because he’s blind in one eye but that doesn’t stop him on the farm. His quality of work is top notch.”
“I’m so proud to see him come out on top and I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome another addition to my working dog team.”
Former Cobber Challenge Champion, Brad McDonald, was working on the same farm as Alex when he took out the title and says he’s proud to see another winner from Tasmania.
“When I won the Cobber Challenge in 2017 with my dog Flo, Alex was working alongside us so to see him and Earl bring it home this year, it’s a really special moment,” said Mr McDonald.
“Alex has done a great job with Earl and it’s a credit to him. Earl is a great working dog and he got some great numbers this year.”
“Farm work especially with sheep and cattle would cease to exist without working dogs,” said Mr McDonald, “They’re the only worker on a farm who does more than 50 kilometres on their feet every day and they do it all for a pat at the end of the day and a scoop of biscuits, Cobber of course!”
Cobber Marketing Manager Kellie Savage says she was blown away by the speed and tenacity of this year’s competitors.
“In the eight years the challenge has been running, I’ve not seen a field of competitors this impressive. These dogs are lightning fast,” said Ms Savage. “All of our competitors reached average top speeds of around 60 kilometres an hour.”
“We are constantly in awe of these dogs. Some of our 2023 Cobber competitors covered more than 80 kilometres in a single day.”
“They are the backbone of working farms everywhere. It’s hard to imagine what agriculture in Australia and New Zealand would be like without them.”
Taking out second place was Dan and Jack from Victoria who covered a total distance of 1,263.4km, The Victorian duo have won a cash prize of $1,000 and six bags of Cobber Working Dog feed.
Third place went Jackson and Rose from the Northern Territory, who covered 822 kilometres. They have won $500 and three bags of feed.
The final standings for the 2023 Cobber Challenge are included in the leaderboard below. Visit the Cobber Challenge website for more information on our 2023 Champions: www.cobberchallenge.com.au
COBBER CHALLENGE – FINAL LEADERBOARD
Participant Working dog Location Total distance (km) Average speed (km/hr)
1. Alex Earl TAS 1,343.3 14.1
2. Dan Jack VIC 1,263.4 11.5
3. Jackson Rose NT 822.1 9.2
4. Cloe Jazz VIC 585.2 10.5
5. Declan Pip SA 406.9 9.1
6. Kelsie Sass NZ 400.8 9.7
7. Katie Scooter NSW 393.5 9.2
8. Dean Dot NZ 348.7 8.2
9. Ashton Fern NZ 321.8 10.4
10. Renee Bat NSW 140.2 12.9
11. Holly Dallas QLD 80 12.7
– Due to unforeseen circumstances our competitors from WA, Demi and Gray, had to withdraw from the challenge