Sheep shorn of 18kg fleece after three years on the lam

Elusive New Zealand merino sheep named Shrekapo was caught after years in the wilderness and relieved of half his bodyweight in wool

A merino sheep named Shrekapo who grew an enormous fleece while evading capture in New Zealand is now 18.6kg lighter after its first shave.

The animal was named Shrekapo after the famous sheep Shrek who was found carrying a 27kg fleece after six years on the run in 2004, and after Lake Tekapo, which is near where it was found.

Shrekapo was spotted hiding in the rocks last week, and was caught later that day, carrying nearly half its bodyweight in wool. The animal had probably been roaming the hills alone for the past three winters, said Gavin Loxton, owner of Sawdon Station at Lake Tekapo.

“He had been spotted up there before by rabbiters and Tahr hunters, and had probably had about three sightings, but any time we had been up there to get him, nobody had been able to find him,” Loxton said. “We had pretty much given up on the whole process, but he’s made it back, so that’s excellent.”

The four-year-old is the latest in a series of elusive sheep to have developed overgrown fleeces, entering an unofficial leaderboard of shaggy heavyweight champions across New Zealand and Australia including: Chris, Shrek, Ewenice, Baarack and Shaun the Sheep.

Loxton runs 5,000 sheep at his station and said it was unclear how Shrekapo became a hermit sheep. It had had its ear marked and had been tailed, which involves removing the tail to reduce the chance of blowfly strike. “We put the lambs back out after tailing … when we bought them all back in for weaning he must have been left behind up there on his own.

The newly shaven Shrekapo.
The newly shaven Shrekapo. Photograph: George Empson

“Whether he was snoozing under a bush or something, nobody will ever know.”

Shrekapo was blinded by his wool, and as a roughly 40kg sheep, was carrying nearly half his body weight in wool. “And that’s when it’s dry,” Loxton added.

Loxton and his crew had some celebratory drinks after finding Shrekapo and “hatched a plan” to shear him at the Easter Monday farmer’s market in Tekapo. Three hundred locals and visitors watched the spectacle, which Loxton said was great for the community after a quiet couple of pandemic years.

The 18.6kg fleece would yield about 14kg of clean wool, which would “get you quite a few garments”, Loxton said. After the shave, Shrekapo was a little wobbly adjusting to his new weight, but was now happily “following the sun around like a sun dial”.

“It’s a weight off his shoulders.”


Eva Corlett in Wellington

The GuardianTramp

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