Walk into the National Museum of Australia and there you’ll see, displayed among Aboriginal paintings, tools and other artifacts that depict the country’s history, roughly 90 lbs. of wool.
The thick fleece “helps tell Australia’s pastoral story, and represents the important work the RSPCA has done in this country for all animals,” the National Museum of Australia wrote in a February 2016 Facebook post.
So… what’s a pile of wool doing in a national museum? Glad you asked.
In the fall of 2015, a group of hikers spotted a sheep wandering around by his lonesome north of Canberra in southeast Australia. He wasn’t exactly hard to spot, either: He was an Australian merino sheep, which are selectively bred to not shed their coats each year, meaning they rely on their human handlers to take care of the shearings.
But this sheep, whose age was estimated at five or six years old, must have been wandering around on his own for years, because this is the unruly mess that gazed back at them (or rather, would have, if he’d been able to see):
Concerned that he wouldn’t survive the summer, the group contacted the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which then sent out a message calling for help from an expert shearer. Heavy fleece traps moisture, which is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and skin infections, so they wanted to get him shorn as soon as possible to check for those and other medical problems.
Ian Elkins, a four-time national shearing champion, answered the call just days later and had to anesthetize poor Chris for the procedure. An average fleece weighs 11 lbs. and takes just a few minutes to shave off, but Chris’s weighed a whopping 90 lb 9.76 oz and took nearly an hour! (But if it’s any consolation, he now holds the Guinness World Records title for Most Wool Sheared From A Sheep – Single Shearing.)
People whose dogs are heavy shedders think they have it bad, but just look at all that wool!
RSPCA worker Tammy Ven Dange said the change, not only in Chris’s physical appearance but his personality, as well, was immediately apparent.
Yesterday, he was hiding in the corner, he didn’t want to have any contact whatsoever, he could barely stand up, and he certainly couldn’t walk very well. And today when I looked at him he was coming up to you, he wanted to be pet…
Incredibly, the RSPCA found Chris to be in relatively good health and he wasn’t suffering from any serious medical conditions. Still, they kept a close eye on him until he was sent to his new home at a nearby farm, where we assume he’s under the best care possible.
But what to do with all that wool? It was embedded with dirt and grime and who knows what else, so it couldn’t be used to make clothing. But it had to be preserved somehow, especially since Chris now held a world record, so they entrusted it for safekeeping with the National Museum:
Imagine how miserable Chris’s life would’ve been if it hadn’t been for those kindhearted hikers who called in for help! Thanks to them, he’s living a life now that he couldn’t have fathomed earlier, and once word of his story got out, the RSPCA was flooded with donations totaling around $15,000.
See Chris happy in his new home below and share to spread his incredibly happy conclusion!
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