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Ireland: Sheep Shearing Olympics

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Ireland: Sheep Shearing Olympics

Kari Lorenson

If you have never see a sheep being sheared, this is something not to miss. Just days ago, what is equivalent to the Olympics in sheep shearing took place in Ireland with New Zealand taking the gold. Men and women from around the world compete on various levels. The 2014 World Machine Sheep Shearing Champion is Rowland Smith.

Every country is allowed to send 2 representatives per competition category; machine shearing, blade shearing and wool handling. There are 3 components to every score a competing shearer receives; skill, quality,  & speed. The skill and quality categories include: the quality of the fleece resulting from the shearing, how it skillfully it is sheared, how show ring ready the sheep is after the cut and how quickly the shearer gets the job done.

Merino Fleece Parts Labeled

Merino Fleece Parts Labeled

A judge stands over the shearer with a clicker which is clicked within earshot of the shearer so that each time the shearer makes what the judge considers a mistake, CLICK. Clicks will result in points lost to the final score. For example within this competition, if the shearer travels over an area on the sheep more than once, points are deducted. Pro-division finalists have accomplished 20 sheep in 17 minutes. 

Given the physicality of  handling and maneuvering the sheep as the shearing is occurring (as you can see in the video posted above) with constraints such as the number of passes the shearer makes, this is not in the same category as your local dog groomer. Judging is also made after the sheep is completely sheared. 

Shearers competing at this level are traveling to shear sheep year round to not only physically train for this physically demanding profession but also hone their skills and knowledge. 

Sheep shears. 

Sheep shears. 

Categories : Blade are old time scissors. Machine is an electric razor. Wool handeling is how the wool is collected and handled as it is being sheared.

The next competition is proposed to be in Australia. Location of the competition typically switches hemispheres. For more information: here and to listen to more info: here