What happens when you don’t shear a sheep? This is what happens — the sheep grows 89 pounds of wool, or double his body weight, putting him at risk of nasty skin infections, blindness, and immobility.
That’s what nearly happened to a lost sheep now being called Chris, who was so skittish and the task of shearing his 89 pounds wool so great he had to be anesthetized.
The sheep was found by bushwalkers outside the Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary near Canberra, Australia, on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. Luckily, the hikers had a soft spot for animals and called the authorities, concerned the sheep — which they christened Chris — wouldn’t survive the summer.
He was found several miles from the nearest sheep farm, and authorities believe he’d wandered from his flock up to six years ago. He’s been living in the wild ever since, which is pretty impressive. But without anyone to shear him, his wool coat got out of hand — to the tune of 89 pounds — making him look quite ridiculous.
But his condition was no laughing matter. It put him at risk of many health problems, covered his eyes, and made it difficult for him to get around, making him vulnerable to predators.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals jumped to the sheep’s rescue, and its director, Tammy Ven Dange, turned to Twitter and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to find an emergency sheep shearer to help save the animal’s life, the Washington Post reported.
“It’d be great to get someone here immediately so we can assess any serious medical conditions he might have as a result of this. There are so many things that could go wrong with this, we won’t know though until we can properly shear him.”
Sheep shearing is actually a competitive sport in Australia, so there was no shortage of willing participants. Enter Ian Elkins, who has won 110 competitions and four national contests, ABC added.
“[This] could be one of my biggest challenges yet,” he said after seeing the animal.
Unfortunately, the sheep was skittish, having been on his own in the wild and away from humans for so long. Elkins also knew the shearing process was going to take a long time — much more than the usual two minutes. He was also concerned that the wool’s weight was tugging at the sheep’s skin, which he risked nicking.
“He could go into shock during the shearing process tomorrow so we’re going to sedate him to try and take some of that pressure off him,” he said.
Ian needed 45 minutes to free Chris of his heavy wool, making it potentially the longest in history and likely a world record (they’ve been in contact with Guinness World Records to make it official). When all was said and done, the wool weighed an incredible 89 pounds. Now completely naked, Chris’s body weight topped at 97 pounds, Ven Dange said.
“He’s looking really good, he looks like a new man. For one thing, he’s only half the weight he used to be.”
When vets have determined that he’s healthy, Chris will get a new home. As for his 89 pounds of wool, it’s too wild — full of vegetable matter and burrs — and too long to be turned into clothing. It may, however, end up in a museum, the Canberra Times reported.
Chris isn’t the only sheep whose wool has gotten out of hand; a few other domesticated sheep have gotten lost and grown a thick coat of wool in the wild. But sheep are naturally supposed to shed their wool every year. Humans are responsible for tweaking the animal so it doesn’t shed at all, leading to overgrown sheep like Chris.
[Photo Courtesy Tammy Ven Denge Twitter]