THE UK's leading working sheepdog sale venue is set to stage a virtual timed sale.

Owing to the coronavirus, live working sheepdog sales, which attract large crowds, can not be held.

But, Skipton Auction Mart, in North Yorkshire, is forging ahead with pioneering plans to stage a virtual online working sheep dog sale with real-time viewing. It is thought the event will be the first of its kind.

The online initiative will run over a six-day period from Sunday to Friday, July 12 to 17.

Following the forced cancellation of the spring sale in May, in a letter to all potential entrants, Skipton Auction Mart's general manager Jeremy Eaton wrote: "We deliberated long and hard about providing our regular customers with a substitute to ensure that dogs move into the right hands, to keep sheep farmers farming, and to provide succession on the trial field for trialists.

"Mindful of this, we propose to create a virtual sale, following the form of conventional timed auctions, but introducing a semi-social element via pre-sale conference viewing the evening before each sale".

Subject to Department of Health Covid-19 advice, the landmark fixture will feature standalone viewing and sale days for entries from Scotland, England and Wales. It is hoped that two further standalone All-Ireland and European viewings will be available.

The closing date for entries is June 16 and will be followed by pre-sale video catalogue on the mart's website on June 29.

More info is available at

In a normal year, Skipton Auction Mart stages four seasonal working sheep dogs sales, which attract hundreds of entries from reputable breeders, handlers and trialists from across the UK.

In February, the world record price for a working sheep dog was smashed at Skipton, when Northumberland shepherdess Emma Gray hit £18,900 with her black and white bitch, Megan.