A merino wether dubbed Big Ben has been shorn of a fleece
even heavier than Shrek's in what is claimed as a world
Big Ben was captured with three other renegades on a high
country station near Twizel after years escaping musters.
The merinos, estimated to be aged about 7, were clipped at
Omahau Hill Station on Saturday night in accordance with
Guinness World Records criteria.
Big Ben weighed 71kg before he was relieved of his 28.9kg
fleece by New Zealand blade shearing champion and former
world champion Tony Dobbs, who said his 25-minute effort was
''certainly not the fastest I have shorn a sheep''.
Shrek's 27kg fleece had been unofficially regarded as the
heaviest in the world.
If confirmed, Big Ben's record will be the first recognised
by Guinness World Records.
Omahau shepherd Hamish Reid said Big Ben and his three merino
mates had escaped the past five or six musters.
Over the past couple of years, they had been sighted by
trackers but attempts to locate them had failed, until a few
Dr Reid, married to station owner Mike Lindsay's daughter
Jess, said the sheep were eventually located on the Ben Ohau
Range, just outside the 2500ha station boundary.
They had escaped into a basin of ''retired land'', and
accordingly had missed consecutive musters, he said.
Dr Reid said it took an entire day for the sheep to be
captured by Mr Lindsay and fellow shepherd Bevan Newlands
(married to another of Mr Lindsay's daughters, Bridget).
The sheep could not see properly because their fleece had
grown over their eyes, so they would not follow one another
by sight when herded by dogs.
The sheer weight of the animals also made it hard to get them
into a truck.
''They hadn't seen humans or had any human contact for so
long, so they were very hard to pen,'' Dr Reid said. ''Mike
and Bevan took some shears with them and when they got them
penned they trimmed the wool away from their eyes so they
could see where they were going.''
Knowing the sheep's fleeces could set records, station staff
took the necessary time and care to have the attempt
Each fleece was about half a metre long, and uncompressed
took up the same space as an armchair, Dr Reid said.
The sheep initially lost their balance when shorn, having
adjusted to moving the weight and bulk of their fleeces.
Dr Reid said it would probably be a few months before
official record confirmation came through. Until then, the
wool would be kept under ''lock and key'' at the station, he
Eventually it would be used to raise money for the Twizel
medical centre's upgrade.