An abandoned sheep has been relieved of its 20kg fleece after locals spotted it roaming alone on a property in central Victoria.
The merino ewe, dubbed Ewenice, was spotted on a property near Redcastle, about 140km north of Melbourne, in July. The RSPCA was called and learned from locals that Ewenice had not been shorn for at least four years.
She was taken in for shearing, with the fleece weighing in at 20kg. After being checked by a veterinarian she was moved to a new home in Geelong.
Ewenice joins a cadre of other fleecy fugitives who have made headlines after evading the clippers for several seasons.
Unlike some other sheep breeds, wool sheep like merinos do not shed their fleece and need to be shorn at least annually. Left untrimmed, they can overheat and even die from heat stress, and have faeces and other material matting their wool, which can attract flies and maggots.
“Carrying such a large fleece for an extended period of time would have had a dire impact on this ewe’s welfare and quality of life,” RSPCA Victoria’s head animal welfare inspector, Terry Ness, said on Wednesday. “It was fantastic to see her transformation after shearing and to send her on to her new home.”
Ness said the incident was a reminder that good animal husbandry was essential to maintaining animal welfare, regardless of whether the animals involved were part of a large production farm or a hobby farm.
The antipodes have a rich history of misadventuring merinos who manage to skip several years of shearing.
The frontrunner for biggest haircut is Chris, whose cloud-like form was spotted by a bushwalker at Mulligans Flats near Canberra in 2015. He was brought in to the RSPCA and shorn by champion shearer Ian Elkins, who took a record-breaking 40.45kg fleece – about seven years’ worth of growth – off the overburdened animal.
Next was biggest was Shrek, the New Zealander, who evaded shearing for six years by hiding in caves on Bendigo Station at Tarras on the South Island before eventually being caught and yielding a 27kg fleece in 2004. He became a local celebrity before dying in 2004.
In 2014, another runaway, Shaun the sheep, became a regular on the Tasmanian agricultural show circuit after he was discovered, aged six, having never been shorn. His fleece weighed in at 23.5kg.