Nickelsberg's Farm

German Shepherd Herding


Schäfermeister Manfred Heyne

† January 20, 1930 — January 14, 2010 †

Manfred & Katharina Heyne with Willy — 1997

The German Shepherd Dog lost one of the breed’s most outspoken and devoted advocates earlier this year.  A man who not only spoke his mind in defense of the working genetics that he believed were being lost, but also, and more importantly, a man who for over 50 years backed up his words with an unsurpassed record of accomplishment — performance accomplishments which demonstrate the validity of those words and the power of those genetics.  Included among Manfred Heyne’s many accomplishments are his 13 BLH Championship titles and countless other wins at regional and national performance competitions — all achieved with his selectively bred herding line of German Shepherd dogs.  

Manfred Heyne was born January 20, 1930 in the village of Zschochau near Meißen in Saxony.  As a small boy he learned about sheep and goats from his grandfather and was fascinated by them.  When he was 6 years old, for Christmas he was given a little wooden toy horse barn with 2 toy horses and a wagon in it.  In the Spring Manfred took the horses and wagon out of the little barn and replaced them with pussy willow buds that he had picked — they were his lambs.  Some years later during one of his visits to his grandparents’ farm, Manfred spent the day with a traveling shepherd and would have gone away with him if the shepherd had not sent him back home that evening.    

In 1946 when he was 16, Manfred saw two shepherd apprentices in town and was so impressed by their dogs that later in the year when one of the apprenticeships became available Manfred applied for it and was accepted — so began Manfred’s education under Schäfermeister Walter Lorenz.  Lorenz was one of the best — 1943 Reichsieger, 1947 Zonensieger, 1947 DDR Hütensieger, 1949 DDR Hütensieger and 10 times Landessieger Sachsen (regional herding champion).  Lorenz himself apprenticed under the highly respected Schäfermeister Albert Pohle whose kennel, aus der Niederlausitz, was known for producing excellent working dogs as well as the 1930 and 1931 Sieger Herold aus der Niederlausitz — before the 1930 Sieger Show Herold was temperament tested by vonStephanitz himself.  Lorenz gave Manfred his knowledge for breeding, training and shepherding, and, at the end of Manfred’s apprenticeship Schäfermeister Lorenz gave Manfred a wonderful gift — his first herding dog.  This dog was Erwin von der Sorbigauerhöhe, a grandson of Lorenz’s most famous herding champion, Clothar von Ehrlingshofen.   

When Manfred had completed his Journeyman’s examination he entered his first herding competition along with his Schäfermeister Lorenz — Schäfermeister Lorenz came in 1st and Journeyman Heyne came in 2nd place!   

In 1952 Manfred fled to the West risking his life to bring his dog, Erwin von der Sorbigauerhöhe, with him. It was with this dog, Irwin von der Sorbigauerhöhe that Manfred won the SV’s first Bundesleistungshüten (National Herding Competition) in 1954 and tied for first place in 1955.  (For the full story see: http://www.german-shepherdherding.com/manfred-english/index.html).  

Manfred with Luki and Fax

Manfred with Nando

Erwin vd Sorbigauerhöhe became the foundation dog of Manfred’s line of BLH Siegers: 1959 BLH Champion Clothar v Dreibruderhof (Erwin son); 1963 BLH Sieger Erlo vd Stammherde Ramholz (Clothar son); 1967, 1969, 1970 BLH Sieger Nando vd Stammherde Ramholz (Erlo son); 1972, 1973, 1975 BLH Sieger Witz vd Stammherde Ramholz (Erlo son); 1976 BLH Sieger Edo vd Stammherde Ramholz (Witz son); 1981, 1984, 1985 BLH Sieger Fax (Wotan son by Witz’S outstanding litter-brother, Wotan, who was 12 years old when Fax was born.  Manfred no longer had Witz.  He had given Witz away, as he always does with his retired champions — Manfred believes there can be only one top dog at a time working the flock and that it is cruel to the retired dog to see himself displaced by the new, upcoming champion.)  (For the full story see: http://www.german-shepherdherding.com/manfred-english/index.html).       

In 1955 Manfred married his wife of 55 years, Katharina, and was hired that same year by Baron Külmann-Stumm to be in charge of Merino Landshaf sheep breeding at his estate in Ramholz. Manfred became nationally recognized for his successful sheep breeding skills when a Ramholz buck won the Championship at the 1964 DLG Wool Show in Hannover. In 1965 Ramholz sheep won again at the DLG Slaughter Show.  More and more significant wins followed at the 1966 and 1968 DLG Shows and beyond. Manfred’s biggest success, however, came in 1974 at the DLG Exposition in Frankfurt when Ramholz sheep won every breed class ─ Manfred is the only breeder ever to have won every breed class at one time at any DLG (German Agricultural Society) Exposition which is Germany’s largest agricultural exposition held only once every two years.  Not long after this achievement Baron Kühlmann-Stumm died in an auto accident. The Baron left his breeding flock to Manfred making Manfred an independent shepherd.  

In 1982 Manfred moved to Lauterbach where he became Schäfermeister in charge of the University of Gießen flocks at its experimental farm in Rudlos until his retirement in 1995. After he retired, Manfred maintained a small flock of 50 ewes at his own Schäferei in Angersbach which he proudly called his “Ponderosa”.  Until the end he continued to breed the ewes from his original flock with the help of his wife, Katharina, and of one or two of his beloved dogs.  

The greatest gift that Manfred Heyne gave all those of us who knew him, respected him, watched him compete over the years and accompanied him in the field with his dogs and his sheep was a deep, abiding love and respect for the working sheep herding dog ─ the same dog that 111 years ago inspired Rittmeister vonStephanitz, with the help and advice of 10 Schäfermeisters, to establish a breed he named the German Shepherd Dog.       

Manfred described the original German Shepherd herding dog as being genetically endowed as a herding dog with innate self-reliance / independence, an honest grip, the best temperament, requiring little water when working, not bothered by heat ─ a dog that can tend the flock on his own and to whom the presence of the shepherd doesn’t matter as long as he is allowed to tend the flock.  If the shepherd leaves the flock either on foot or by car, it makes absolutely no difference to this herding dog and he will continue to contain the flock working precisely on all four borders hour after hour on his own.       

These original German Shepherd herding dogs were unique according to Manfred. More than one hundred years ago there were many varieties of herding dog in Germany but the shepherds were very careful not to allow any crossbreeding. The Schäfermeisters from southern and middle Germany had indigenous tending dogs with upright ears and a variety of coats and each herding variety had its own unique working characteristics and traits depending on where in Germany it was being used. For example, the grip, which is biting to discipline the sheep when necessary, in the middle part of Germany dogs would bite the hind leg of a sheep silently whereas in the southern parts of Germany the same variety of dog would bite the rib area or the neck either silently or with a perceptible growl. These dogs were the result of man’s careful and purposeful breeding over the centuries ─ they would be selected as puppies by testing or they would be selected during training as being the best for this work and, therefore, for breeding. The Schäfermeisters were poor people and the people whose flocks they tended were also among the poor in the village.  If something happened to a sheep in the shepherd’s care during the tending season, if it was injured or such, the shepherd had to replace it.  Because grazing conditions were very limited, only correct, honest, and reliable dogs could be used.  If any sort of character or working faults became apparent in the dog, he would become a chained dog on the farm or he would be hung from the nearest tree.  This is how breeding selections for the herding dog were made one hundred and more years ago. The shepherds were so poor one hundred years and more ago that they couldn’t afford to have a second dog.  Hence, the dog that the shepherd acquired had to be the dog.  For the next eight to ten years this dog would be the most important living thing to the shepherd for assisting with the job at hand and for looking after and tending the flock all day long.       

Manfred Heyne’s unsurpassed professional record of breeding and performance achievements speaks for itself.  Manfred Heyne as a man, however, was far more than his record. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He was proud of his profession and regarded his title of Schäfermeister as an honor to be borne with dignity. He was dedicated to preserving the herding genetics of the GSD that so attracted him in his youth. Manfred Heyne loved life. He took everything that life threw at him as a challenge and an opportunity. He never sought to enrich himself selling dogs or knowledge ─ he shared his knowledge freely with anyone who cared enough to ask. When I asked him what I could pay him for all the knowledge he gave me year after year and for the invaluable herding genetics he passed on to me in the litter that gave me Nicky, he said “I cannot ask anything for what God has freely given me.” Manfred Heyne was that way with all his friends ─ generous to a fault.  His enemies, however, had no more formidable foe.       

Manfred Heyne was asked several years ago what his most satisfying experiences have been in preserving his breed ─ the German Shepherd herding dog. In closing, I think his answer is a most fitting tribute:        

“I have been allowed to participate in the Bundesleistungshüten for 30 years. I have always remained faithful to my line and to the paternal line of my dogs. EVERY DAY when I am out tending my flock ─ where my dog always works on his own ─ and where my heart leaps for joy ─ I have this feeling that vonStephanitz is looking down on me from Heaven saying:”Yes, my boy, you have done it right!!!”  

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