CANBERRA, Australia—A lost, overgrown sheep found in Australian scrubland was shorn for perhaps the first time today, yielding 40 kg of wool—the equivalent of 30 sweaters—and shedding almost half his body weight.
Tammy Ven Dange, chief executive of the Canberra RSPCA, which rescued the merino ram dubbed “Chris,” said she hoped to register the 40.45-kg fleece with the Guinness World Records.
An official of the London-based organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The most wool sheared from a sheep in a single shearing is 28.9 kg taken from a wild New Zealand merino dubbed “Big Ben” in January last year, the Guinness World Records website said.
“He’s looking really good, he looks like a new man,” Ven Dange said as the now 44-kg sheep recovered at the Canberra animal refuge.
“For one thing, he’s only half the weight he used to be.”
Champion shearer Ian Elkins said the sheep appeared to be in good condition after being separated from his huge fleece under anesthetic.
“I don’t reckon he’s been shorn before and I reckon he’d be five or six years old,” Elkins said.
Chris was found near Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary outside Canberra by bushwalkers who feared he would not survive the approaching southern summer.
He was found several kilometres from the nearest sheep farm.
A bushwalker named him Chris after the sheep in the “Father Ted” television comedy series.
Chris was rescued by the RSPCA yesterday and taken to Canberra, where he was shorn under anesthetic because he was stressed by human company and because of the potential pain from the heavy fleece tearing skin as it fell away.
Ven Dange said Chris had suffered skin burns from urine trapped in his fleece and could have died within weeks if left in the wild.
“When we first brought him in yesterday, he was really shy, he was shaking, he would move his head away from people and he could barely get up and walk,” she noted.
“The drugs might be wearing off right now but he’s actually coming to you and actually wants a pat,” she added.
“He’s certainly moving a heck of a lot better.”
Ven Dange said Chris would be found a new home after vets gave him the all-clear.
Elkins, meanwhile, said the fleece was too long to be sold commercially.
He hoped it would end up in a museum.
“I wouldn’t say it’s high quality, but you wouldn’t expect it to be running around in the bush that long unshorn,” he noted.
Australian merinos are bred for wool and are shorn annually, with fleeces averaging about five kg.