Shearer saves lost sheep from woolly death, breaks record

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An Australian champion sheep shearer has set a new record after clipping a sheep that had become so overgrown its life was endangered.

The gigantic sheep, named Chris by the member of the public who found it just outside Australia’s capital, Canberra, could barely walk when it was found.

Shearer Ian Elkins volunteered to shear the mammoth creature, which had to be sedated throughout the operation, after being contacted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

He took 45 minutes to remove the 47-centimeter or 18-inch fleece, which the RSPCA said weighed over 40 kilograms or 88 pounds.

It easily beat the 27-kilogram or 60-pound fleece previously shorn from a New Zealand sheep, known as ‘Shrek,’ that was found in a cave in 2004 after avoiding farmers for six years. It also trounced the official world record for the largest single fleece ever shorn, presently held by a New Zealand sheep called ‘Big Ben.’ Shearers stripped Big Ben of his 28.9-kilogram or 68-pound fleece in January 2014, according to the RSPCA.

Elkins told a local newspaper, the Canberra Times, that the wool had “smashed Shrek’s record of 27 kilograms (60 pounds), no worries.”

“I don’t think it’s been shorn before, and I think he’s five- or six-years-old,” said Elkins, a four-time Australian shearing champion. “I wouldn’t say it’s high quality, but you wouldn’t expect it to be after so long in the bush.”

The RSPCA said sheep like Chris, a Merino that are bred especially for their wool, need to be shorn regularly, or they can have trouble going to the bathroom and can develop serious medical issues like flystrike or infection.

An average Australian fleece in comparison weighs just five kilograms and takes approximately three minutes to shear, according to the Australian Wool Innovation.

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