Shearer saves lost sheep from woolly death, sets unofficial world record

By Georgia McCafferty, for CNN
Updated 4:17 AM ET, Fri September 4, 2015
Source: CNN

(CNN)An Australian champion sheep shearer has set an unofficial world record after clipping a sheep that had become so overgrown its life was endangered.

The gigantic sheep, named “Chris” by a 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 (RSPCA) in Australia.
Chris the sheep as seen in the wild, in the Mulligans Flats area near the NSW-ACT border, Australia.
He took 42 minutes to remove the 47 centimeter (18 inch) fleece, which the RSPCA said weighed 40.45 kilograms (89 pounds).

It easily beat the 27 kilogram (60 pound) fleece previously shorn from a New Zealand sheep, known as “Shrek.”

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 Ben of his 28.9 kilogram (68 pound) fleece in January 2014, according to the RSPCA.
It took 42 minutes to rid Chris of his fleece, the RSPCA said.
“I’ve been shearing for 35 years, but I’ve never seen anything like this. Many times we’ll shear a sheep and get five kilos but it was seven years since this sheep was actually shorn. It was quite a challenge,” Elkins told CNN.

“The fleece has no commercial value, but hopefully it’ll end up in a museum somewhere. It’ll be a long time until this record is broken,” he added.
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 (11 pounds) and takes approximately three minutes to shear, according to Australian Wool Innovation (AWI).