On September 2nd, Canberra's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) received news of a woolly creature roaming around in the Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve on the outskirts of the city. When the officials arrived to investigate, they discovered a barely visible ram buried under a giant ball of beautiful merino wool.
It took five men to bring the errant animal to the rescue center. The poor sheep who was nicknamed "Chris" could barely walk under what appeared to be at least seven years of fleece growth. RSPCA officials knew that to ensure the animal's well-being, they should relieve him of his thick coat as soon as possible. That's because Chris could be harboring some serious infections under the wool and it could also be impeding his need to go to the bathroom.
However, the shearing had to be approached carefully. That's because Chris had not been subjected to it for many years and just the process could lead to shock and death. To minimize his trauma, the rescuers decided to mildly sedate the animal. They also enlisted the help of experienced shearer Ian Elkins for the job.
The Canberra resident who has over 35 years of experience and been named "Australian Shearer of the Year" six times, said he had never seen anything like this before. It took the expert and his team of five almost 42 minutes to peel off the 40.45 kilograms of wool - the equivalent of about 30 sweaters - that Chris has been dragging around for years.
While a lot longer than the three minutes it takes to shear an average sheep with five pounds of fleece, Elkins said he been expecting to spend at least two-three hours on the job. The expert attributes the success of the smooth operation to Chris. The smart sheep appeared to understand what the humans were trying to accomplish and remained surprisingly calm and relaxed through the shearing process.
Chris, who has lost almost half his weight, is now recuperating under the watchful eyes of the rescue center's veterinarians. As for his wool? Turns out it is not of very high quality and therefore, has no commercial value.
However, it will most likely set a new world record for the largest single fleece ever shorn. The current record is held by a New Zealand sheep called "Big Ben," who earned his place in history in 2014 after shearers stripped of his 28.9-kilogram woolly coat. As to how Chris managed to grow all this wool? RSPCA officials speculate that the ram drifted away from his herd about seven years ago and has been roaming around in the wild since then.
This is not the first time an errant sheep carrying an extra large load of fleece has been discovered. in 2004, "Shrek" was rescued from a New Zealand cave where he had purportedly spent six years. Not surprisingly, the sheep had accumulated an astounding 27-kilograms of wool by the time he was rescued.
Shrek's story got the nation's attention and the sheep became a national hero and the star of many children's books. He passed away in 2011 at the ripe-old age of 16, after living a pampered life at a New Zealand farm. We have a feeling Chris is about to get as famous!
Resources: cnn.com, weather.com,canberratimes.com.au, dispatchtimes.com