A wayward sheep that has been running wild for seven years is in ‘shear’ bliss after it was caught and de-fleeced of 22.2 kilograms of wool.
The Western Australian sheep, aptly named ‘Big Sheep’, had wandered off into a saltbush tree plantation when it was a lamb in 2015.
Although spotted a number of times over the years, it wasn’t until last month that the elusive merino was caught.
The woolly wether was enticed onto a horse float and transported to a shearing shed where it was given a much needed haircut.
Shearers said the woolly merino, named ‘Big Sheep’, looked like a turtle lying on its back with its feet in the air just before he was shorn (pictured)
When local wool broker Andrew Beaton was told that Big Sheep had been caught he wasted no time getting to the shed to watch the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ shearing.
‘[Local farmer] David Cox had told me he caught the sheep and when he said he was going to start shearing it I quickly popped over to the shed to have a look,’ Mr Beaton told Daily Mail Australia.
‘When I got there it (Big Sheep) was looking at me in the pen. They grabbed the sheep, dragged it out and started to shear off its fleece.’
Neridup farmer David Cox told ABC News the sheep was surprisingly placid to shear.
‘He was just like a big turtle, lying on his back with his feet in the air and [the shearers] took a big, deep breath and got into him,’ Mr Cox said.
‘They were all drawing straws as to who was going to shear him, and it took a couple of them to hold him and pull his wool away.
‘It was quite a peaceful experience for him, I think.’
After seven years of running wild, a 22.2kg pile (pictured) of wool was removed from Big Sheep
Once Big Sheep had been freed from his overgrown fleece, the ram returned to the paddock with a group of lambs and is doing well.
Mr Beaton said he had spent his whole life in a shed but had never seen anything like Big Sheep’s fleece before.
‘I have a sample of wool from station country that is probably a little bit longer but I never saw the whole fleece,’ Mr Beaton said.
‘I went to pick it up, it was really bulky.’
The 22.2 kilogram wool topped the wool secured from the recent shearing of a New Zealand icon, ‘Shrekapo’, which yielded just over 18 kilograms of wool.
Big Sheep’s figures was just over half the weight of the world record. The Guinness World Record for heaviest fleece is held by Chris the sheep, from Canberra, who in 2015 had a 41kg-coat taken off.
In March 2022, a Victorian merino named Alex the sheep narrowly missed the record when a 40kg fleece was removed from the animal.
While talking to Daily Mail Australia, Mr Beaton put down the phone and pulled a staple of Big Sheep’s fleece out from the wool bale and measured its length at a whopping 55cm.
As for what happens to the massive fleece, Mr Beaton said it will likely be used by local crafters that hand-spin wool to make beanies or scarves.
However, before it gets transformed into an item of clothing, Mr Beaton hopes to display it at the October 2022 Esperance agricultural show.
‘It’s pretty novel,’ Mr Beaton said. ‘Many people wouldn’t have seen a fleece of this size before, the show will give them a chance to see it.’
Big Sheep (pictured) was surprisingly healthy under his overgrown fleece and has returned to the paddock with a group of lambs since he was shorn