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Bushwalkers in Australia Might Have Just Found the Wooliest Sheep of All Time

A sheep found in Australia this week is so woolly that it may set records in the sheep population there.

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Animal welfare officers in Australia are in the market for a sheep shearer — and fast — after hikers found what may be the largest sheep ever recorded wandering just outside of Canberra this week.

The sheep is so woolly that officers who visited the scene Tuesday had to return with reinforcements Wednesday to capture it and get it sheared. Australian farmers breed merino sheep for their wool, and the animals are supposed to be sheared each year. If they go too long without being sheared, they can lose circulation and die from the stress of carrying so much weight.

Tammy Ven Dange, who heads the Australian society for protection of animals in the country’s capital territory, told Agence France-Presse that the animal was “four to five times its normal size” and is “definitely one of the biggest sheep we’ve ever seen.”

And considering Australia has three sheep for every human, Ven Dange has probably seen her fair share of sheep.

Ven Dange added that this sheep, which likely wandered from its herd and has not encountered humans in many years, was “pretty stressed out” that its jig was up. The officers hope to sedate and shear it by Thursday, but until now have been unable to determine its age or sex because of all the wool.

According to AFP, Ian Elkins, a sheep shearing champion who was inducted into the Australian Shearers Hall of Fame, responded to the call for help. “[It] could be one of my biggest challenges yet,” he said.

This isn’t the first time an unsheared sheep has garnered such attention.

Next door in New Zealand, a sheep named Shrek evaded six years of shearing after he escaped from his herd in 1998 and hid out in a cave. When he was found in 2004, he was shorn on live television and produced 60 pounds of wool — enough for 20 men’s suits.

No word yet on what they’ll name this one, or whether his shearing will be live-streamed.

Photo credit: Australian RSCPA

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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