Extremely Overgrown Sheep Gets Sheared, Producing 90 Pounds of Wool

chris the sheep
Chris, a feral Merino sheep, has had his fleece safely shorn. The estimated five years' worth of growth, at 40.45 kilograms, achieved a world record for the heaviest fleece ever shorn from a sheep. Polaris/Newscom

Chris is a very thankful sheep. After five years of growing woolier and woolier, he's been sheared, producing about 90 pounds of merino wool and relieving him of a very heavy burden.

Chris was found wandering in Canberra, Australia—though perhaps it's more accurate to say he was wandling. When humans came across Chris, he was so overgrown that it was hard for him to move and see.

The shearing was potentially life-saving. Chris's skin was burned by urine in his fleece, a condition that could have killed him. Removing the fleece resolved the issue, but shearing him was no simple matter. There were other illnesses to worry about, as well as the sheep's mental wellbeing.

Ian Elkins, a champion sheep shearer, was brought in for the job after Canberra RSPCA, the animal rights group that rescued Chris, put out the call for help. Because he had likely never been sheared before and had limited contact with humans, Chris was frightened. "As a solitary sheep, he was incredibly stressed from the new human contact," RSPCA explained. "We were also unsure if he could live through this ordeal as he was clearly stressed and could die easily of shock."

Elkins shaved the fleece off in one piece. It took him 42 minutes. The expert shearer said the wool was too long to be sold was not "high quality." Had the wool been sellable, it could've made 30 sweaters. Instead, Elkins would like to see it in a museum. RSPCA thinks Chris might have set a new record as the most wool shorn from one sheep in an instance.

Since his shearing, Chris is doing well. He's lost about half his body weight and he has a snazzy new green coat—not the wool kind.

Extremely Overgrown Sheep Gets Sheared, Producing 90 Pounds of Wool | World