Hikers near Mulligan Flats just outside the Australian capital of Canberra reported the existence of a large and extremely hairy sheep earlier this week. The animal had apparently been separated from its herd and was living by itself in the wild. The animal became so overgrown with wool that its continued survival was at risk.
According to The Guardian, a local animal rehabilitation group captured the sheep and will be taking care of it until it can be sheared. The group even requested the services of a national sheep shearing champion for the task.
“They sent through a photo and I’ve never seen such wool on a sheep before,” Ian Elkins, an inductee of the Australian Shearers’ Hall of Fame, told AFP.
The champion shearer added that he did accept the challenge, though the task may be more difficult than it looks. Shaving a sheep this overgrown could take several hours.
Merino sheep such as this one adapt badly to living on their own because their wool never stops growing. Typically, an average merino will grow just short of three inches of wool every year. If left unshorn, their excess wool may cause heat stress, lack of mobility, and obstruction to their vision.
The wool can also be incredibly heavy. One sheep that had gone an astounding six years without being sheared ended up providing about 60 pounds in wool.
Merino wool is counted among the best in the world and has a reputation for being extremely soft. However, this poor sheep’s dirty coat will likely be either discarded or donated to a museum.
Edit 9-3-2015: Ian Elkins did indeed shear the sheep on Thursday, shaving an astounding 88 pounds of wool off the animal. The sheep is said to be in good health and is adjusting to the new changes.
You can see pictures of the sheep below:
Image from Twitter