Wild sheep shed their wool each year, but Merino sheep have been bred specifically to keep on growing until they’re shorn – so we can use their wool. The now-famous Chris, a sheep in Australia who somehow wandered off from his flock into the wild and evaded shearing for up to six years, according to expert estimates, was on death’s doorstep when a hiker discovered him outside Canberra. His wool had grown so big, he was susceptible to parasites and infection and at risk of falling over. If that had happened, he wouldn’t have been able to get back up, making him fair game for wild animals. Fearing the worst, the hiker immediately alerted authorities, and Tammy Ven Dange from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals posted an urgent SOS tweet. “Help! @rspcaact needs help from a sheerer immediately to hopefully save this sheep we just rescued!” she wrote. Ian Elkins, a renowned celebrity shearer, volunteered his services.

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Complicating matters, Chris the Sheep is not domesticated and people flocked to get a look.

“He has obviously not been around people in a very long time, and it’s probably going to take a couple of goes before we get it all off him,” Ven Dange told ABC. “He could go into shock during the shearing process tomorrow so we’re going to sedate him to try and take some of that pressure off him.”

Elkins, a four-time national champion, according to the Washington Post, was concerned. He said the weight of the wool pulled on the sheep’s skin, making it more likely to cut him.

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“[This] could be one of my biggest challenges yet,” Elkins told WP.

An impressive 45 minutes later, Elkins had sheared off nearly 89 pounds of wool. Normally, it would take about 30 seconds to 2 minutes to shear an average sheep, which would yield on average 11 pounds.

“It’s actually smashed the record,” Elkins told the Guardian. “It’s very exciting to be part of it, and it’s quite pleasing that the welfare of this sheep was taken care of.”

Washington Post reports that Chris now weighs only 97 pounds, which means he was carrying almost his entire body weight in wool.

Via Washington Post

Images via Tammy Ven Dange on Twitter