- RSPCA via Tammy Ven Dange
Talk about a close shave!
Earlier today, a sheep named Chris got a much-needed shear that, in all probability, saved his life.
Chris is a merino sheep, which is a special breed of sheep that are famous for producing some of the softest, finest wool in the world. And they never stop making it.
That’s where Chris got into trouble: He got lost in the wild years ago and his wool never stopped growing. So when shearers finally removed it, they collected a record-shattering 89 pounds worth of the fluffy stuff.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, Spanish sheep herders let their local sheep breed with English sheep. The result was the merino – a sheep that doesn’t even qualify as a freak of nature because Mother Nature would never make such an animal. They are an evolutionary nightmare that humans made.
That’s because these sheep cannot shed wool on their own, a vital survival trait for sheep in the wild. Merino sheep need humans to shear their wool for them. These sheep can produce between 10 to 40 pounds of wool each year. From the looks of him, Chris had not been sheared for at least several years:
- Courtesy of Tammy Ven Dange
While that’s not a problem for the many merino sheep on farms around the world, sheep like Chris who get lost in the wild are in big trouble.
If a hiker had not spotted Chris, he would have continued growing more and more wool, which eventually could have become infected and even prevented him from going to the bathroom, Tammy Ven Dange of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told the Canberra Times.
Chris isn’t the first merino to get lost and grow mind-boggling amounts of wool. In 2004, a sheep named Shrek was found after living in a New Zealand cave for six straight years. He was carrying an extra load of 60 pounds of wool, which, although a considerable amount, still doesn’t compare to Chris’s 89-pound coat.
Chris took 45 minutes to shear – about 90 times longer than the 30-second shear your average merino gets each year. It was a long and arduous operation, but Chris looks all the better for it and looks like a pretty happy camper: