The People Behind the Scenes at Museums
A Sheep Herder and His Dogs at Biltmore Estate: Adding to the Visitor Experience
How would you describe your job?
My job at the Biltmore Estate is to entertain the guests. I do border collie demonstrations working both sheep and ducks to show the versatility of these dogs and how they can be helpful and have been helpful on farms here in the Western Carolina mountains for generations.
I like to show some of the progress of training the dogs. I believe some people think that you just turn them loose and they do all this naturally on their own. One of the things I do in my demonstrations is try to bring in some local history. I have registered Border Collies, very similar to the Collie dogs used by our ancestors here in the mountains. Those dogs helped bring in the cattle or catch up the hogs in the fall to fatten up. Even simple jobs like helping catch a chicken for Sunday dinner or keep varmints out of the corn and garden area were important. They were also used along the drover path that came through Asheville. Drovers Road here in Western North Carolina was a route for farmers to move their herds to markets east of here.
What’s something in your job, whether part of your job description or just something you choose to do, that most people/visitors would not realize you do?
Even though I do this every Saturday, it takes a fair bit of time to load up the dogs and all the equipment I need. Also, I have to gather up the sheep and ducks when I arrive and make sure there’s plenty of water for the dogs.
What does Biltmore do to create a positive visitor experience?
Biltmore wants every guest to have a unique and great experience at each one of their visits. Sometimes their unique experience is their first visit to Biltmore, other times it’s based on a new experience like seeing me with my dogs and the demonstrations we do.
How does Biltmore benefit visitors’ wellbeing?
Biltmore Estate is just a great way to relax and enjoy time with your family whether it's wandering through the house or on the grounds. And it’s a chance to see a little of American history.
See Joe and his dogs every Saturday afternoon at Biltmore on the hour, below the barn over in the Antler Hill part of Biltmore. He's patient and informative. So fun to watch! Thank you, Joe!
Have you ever watched a sheep herding demonstration?