This year’s Cobber cohort covered more than 6000 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 three-year-old kelpie, Earl, who covered a total distance of 1343km 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 km/h, making Earl the fastest ever Cobber Challenge competitor.

But it wasn’t enough to keep up with Alex and Earl’s consistency.

The duo from Fingal 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 said he was 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 Earl has been working harder than ever,” he said.

“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,” Brad said.

“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.

“They’re the only worker on a farm who does more than 50km on their feet every day and they do it all for a pat at the end of the day and a scoop of biscuits.”

In second place was Victorian pair Dan McInnes and his two-year-old kelpie, Jack.

Taking out second place was Dan McInnes and his two-year-old kelpie, Jack, who covered a total distance of 1263.4km.

The duo from Acheron in Victoria won a cash prize of $1000 and six bags of Cobber Working Dog feed.

Third place went to Jackson Clifford and Rose, from Mataranka in the Northern Territory.

The two-year-old kelpie covered 822km. They have won $500 and three bags of feed.

Visit the Cobber Challenge website for more information:

Third place-getter Rose on her way to covering 822km.