Annual Sheep Shearing in the Australian Adventure

Magnolia and other trees are blossoming in late April

The spring is here and this means that the time has come for the annual sheep shearing at the zoo.

Merino sheep before and after the haircut

The sheep shearing is an annual event in the outback Australia and in the Cleveland Zoo. The merino sheep have a lot of fleece and it would be very difficult for them during the summer if they are not sheared. Also, the newborn lambs cannot find the sheep nipple to suck among the dense fleece. These are just two of the reasons why sheep have an annual shearing day.

The merino sheep skin is very wrinkly and sometimes inadvertent cuts happen, just as when you shave before you go to work (for men only). See these minor cuts on the picture. These cuts heal very well, just like kids' bruises when playing or falling from a bicycle.

This is a professional shearer who knows that the sheep has to be seated so as not to fight during this yearly haircut. Nowadays everybody uses electric machines instead of scissors. This allows the trained shearers to work on more than 400 sheep in a day.

Note that the fleece is sheared in one piece and not in cuts and bits. It took this shearer 5 min to be done just because everyone wanted to have a good picture. During the state fair, the champion shearer managed to finish within one and a half minutes ! There is a special technique to do the sharing, a series of movements, called the Bowen Technique.

And, of course, the best shearers come from New Zealand. The world speed shear record is 1 lamb in 17.94 seconds!

Even if you don't see it that way, the sheep shearing down under and in the UK, is popular sport with regional and world championships. The world record for shearing sheep is 463 sheep in 9 hours, achieved by Bowen himself.

A new animal (much smaller) is appearing from the other side of the fleece.

The fleece is white and clean on the inside and dirty on the outside, so it needs to be washed before it can be used. Actually, the dark color of the outer fleece is due to lanolin. If you touch the fleece and rub it, you will notice that you hands become soft. The lanolin is used in almost all commercial creams for dry skin. It is like moisturizing your hands with sheep sweat. Yuck!

The cleaned fleece can be used to make sweaters and many other things.

And this is the end of our annual shearing day at the zoo! Hope you had fun. The shearing day is every year at the end of April.


Sheep shearer - Wikipedia
Godfrey Bowen, the fastest shearer in the world -
Wool - Wikipedia
An Australian vacation -
Awesome Australia in Your World Slide Shows

Related reading:

Work Every Bit as Wild as It Is Woolly. NYTimes, 04/2008.
The world's largest sheep - Where? Goulburn, Australia - How big? 15 glorious meters
Sheep shearing and sudden death - case report from Australia with graphic images
Shearing Season - Slide Show - NYTimes, 2014

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