Domestication as a Signature of Human Nature / One Man and His Dog – BBC (1985)

Johnny Wilson and his dogs earned their fame when they won BBC2’s One Man and His Dog competition. Here in this short clip we see a remarkable section from the program that highlights a signature of one of the hallmark characters in Human nature: Domestication. Domestication expanded Human abilities beyond the natural boundaries. Note that domestication in animals almost always starts with selection of “behavior”. Using this unintentional primary cue as a starting point Humans in different parts of the world selectively bred dogs for multiple purposes. Evidence suggests that dog domestication happened more than once independently in Eastern and Western Eurasia.

In his highly influential 1997 book “Guns Germs and Steel” Jared Diamond lists prerequisites for animal and plant domestication. Many of the prerequisites for animals are behavioral traits. In this clip the level of behavioral coordination and cooperation between the two species is absolutely stunning.

The rules of sheep dog handling competitions are fairly standard containing six parts:

Sheep: 5 sheep (3 unmarked and 2 marked with red collars).
Gather: 400 yards from handler.
Fetch: Set of gates = 7 yards apart, 150 yards from handler, in the centre of the course.
Drive: 450 yards over triangular course, 2 sets of gates = 7 yards apart. First set of gates approximately 150 yards from handler.
Shedding ring: 40 yards in diameter
Pen: 9 feet x 8 feet wide with a gate 8 feet wide, secured by a rope 6 feet long. The gate must open to not less than 170 degrees.

All these are performed while racing against time. The breakdown of points by judges are: Gathering 100 (each Outrun 20; each Lift 10; each Fetch 20); Driving 40; Shedding 20; Penning 10; Total = 170points.

Johnny Wilson began to rise into prominence with a pup called Scott. In 1974 Scott and Wilson won the International Shepherds’ Championship at Kilmartin, Argyllshire. In 1982 Wilson’s dog Cap won the Scottish Shepherds’ Championship at Strathaven. Then came another pup called Peg. Peg and Wilson formed an outstanding partnership, winning the Scottish Shepherds’ Championship and the International Championship three times! Together they also became Reserve Supreme Champion twice. Although Peg never won the International Supreme Championship, her son Spot became champion in 1991 and 1994. With Rob, a son of Spot, Wilson became Scottish National Champion in 1996 and 1998, and was third in the Supreme International Championship in both years. He became Supreme Champion in 2003 at Stranraer, and reserve champion in 2004, with Maid. Sadly, Wilson passed away in 2005.



  1. Kerem says:

    Excellent dog!

Leave a Comment


shared on