Sheep. They’re the punchline of many a joke directed at us humble, primary industry-loving Kiwis from our green and gold neighbours. Considering the local population of the woolly fuckers peaked at over 70 million in 1982, it can be a forgiven misunderstanding that occasionally we slip in the shearing shed and end up in compromising positions. Naturally, with the sheer amount of wool produced by each of these creatures resembling a five-year-olds scribble of a cat, shearing became routine for any rural New Zealander that owned a black singlet and stubbies, and wore gum boots to black tie events. Being the out of touch, bumpkin nation of tall poppy haters that we are, we became locally competitive between shearers, likely to determine who’d get Sharon the Checkout Lass at the local Four Square’s hand in marriage. This naturally helped produce some of the deftest and nimble sheep shearing athletes on the world stage today - the crème de la Cromwell, if you will.
Shearing is not terribly popular internationally - a record 29 countries competed at the 2008 world championships. Some of said nations include big boys - the UK, Ireland, South Africa, as well as our lovely Australian neighbours.
Sheep shearing as a sport today, though likely not as prized or valued by some of the more affluent nations (i.e. ones that are good at football) - has provided bragging rights as well as umpteen world records I like to believe ol’ Billy English kept in a special cabinet in the PM’s office during his short term. Bill’s own background in shearing in the Deep South lead to a special celeb match with washed-up legend Sir David Fagan – which Billy won. Well done, Bill. Surprising considering Fagan has some serious hardware to his name. Hailing from what is known as the shearing capital of New Zealand, Te Kuiti, Sir David has won the NZ champs ‘‘Golden Shears” 16 times, as well as set 10 world records, won five individual and six team world titles - making him New Zealand’s most decorated shearer ever. Bloody good work, Davo. If you hadn’t already picked up on it, he was also knighted for his services to shearing. Bloody good work, Sir Davo.
This year, the Golden Shears were held March 1-3 in Masterton. Some bloke named Rowland Smith from Hastings won the open shearing final with his competition coming from as far and wide as (the Republic of) Whangamomona and Halcombe (fuck knows where that is). Providing entertainment for hicks and yokels alike, I’d be pulling the wool over your eyes to say I’m upset to have missed this year’s event.