For someone who shuns the limelight, Merv Utting has spent an awfully long time in it.
This master dog triallist has six New Zealand titles and 11 Island titles to his credit. Over 55 years he has made 61 finals, with 22 different dogs. He’s represented New Zealand nine times in the hotly-contested Trans-Tasman tests – three times as captain – and unsurprisingly he is regarded as one of New Zealand’s best ever.
His passion for dog trialling started in his late teens when he was sent to work at a station in Tolaga Bay. Returned servicemen Doug McNeil and Toot Lincoln were both good dog triallists who also happened to be his uncles, gave him a couple of dogs and encouraged him into the sport. Success didn’t happen immediately and it took him a good year or so before he even got a placing.
However, come 1979 and that all changed when he and huntaway Wag won their first North Island Straight Hunt title at Masterton. In 1980 he and the very successful heading dog Pat won their first New Zealand title at Mararoa near Te Anau. Merv and Pat didn’t miss a North Island or New Zealand final between 1978 and 1985, winning two Long Head titles (1980 and 1984) along the way.
His other New Zealand titles came in 1998 in the Short Head and Yard at Blenheim with Joy, 2003 in the Long Head at Ohaewai with Rose, 2008 in the Long Head again with Rose and 2015 in the Short Head and Yard at Moawhango, near Taihape, with Prince II.
Merv won North Island titles in the Straight Hunt at Masterton (1979) with Wag, seven Short Head and Yard crowns, at Mangamingi, near Stratford (1991) with Von, at Omarama (1996) with Joy, at Ngongotaha (1997) with Len, at Gisborne (2001) with Joy, at Masterton (2004) with Rose, at Moawhango (2015) with Prince II and at Warepa, in Otago (2017) with Fern, who is the granddaughter of the well performed Rose; and two Long Head titles at Whangara (1994) with Len and at Mangamingi (2000) with Pat II. He also claimed a Zig Zag Hunt title in 2006 with Rex.
Pat (1978-1985) was his most successful dog, making eight finals and winning two New Zealand crowns, with Rose (2002-2009) making seven finals for two New Zealand titles and one North Island victory. Prince II (2012-2018) was also a champ, making seven finals and winning both a National and North Island crown. Merv has been runner-up six times in New Zealand title classes and 10 times in Island titles classes.
In 2016 he was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to sheep dog trialling. Over the years he has been made both a national and international judge, a delegate to the New Zealand Sheep Dog Trial Association, a member of the Poverty Bay Centre executive committee and long-time president of the Waimata Dog Trial Club. He is a life member of the Poverty Bay Dog Trial Centre.
Kelly, one of his three daughters, was the only one to follow him into dog trialling. Merv and his wife Connie farm at Te Matai Station in the Waimata Valley.