I know I’m stating the obvious when I say sheep are everywhere in New Zealand, but let me elaborate. It’s well beyond the outsiders’ comprehension. Until you’ve witnessed the sheer number of sheep, you truly have no idea. Here are just a few ways that the average sheep “touches” a New Zealander each day.
Sheep have become a National joke in New Zealand. The most readily heard poke is that it’s a country of 80 million sheep, four million of which think they are human.
Ah, but it gets better. New Zealand boasts a National Hero. That’s right, Godfrey Bowen, “The Fastest Sheep Shearer” in the world. At the age of 19 Bowen hit his first impressive peak – shearing 322 sheep in one day!
Bowen is responsible for The Bowen Technique, the use of the non-shearing hand to stretch out the skin of the sheep, as well as the idea of ‘the second shear’ in autumn, in addition to the traditional spring/summer shear. He is truly a National Hero. Throughout his career he’s been invited to Buckingham Palace, appeared on late night American television and been honored by the leader of the Soviet Union (Google him for more shearing stats).
Back to the sheep ‘buggers’…Matt and I had the joyous experience of ‘running’ into one stray sheep with Bongo while traveling through High Country (the region famous for Icebreaker‘s merino wool outdoor clothing). We played “chicken” for a few minutes, drove for a while with the sheep galloping alongside and finally watched it jut into a cattle farm for safety…ahh, just another touching moment.
Finally, inspired by our friendly sheep ‘mates,’ Matt decided to spend his first month in New Zealand growing a “woolly” coat of his own. Sheep’s fur, similar to Matt’s burly mane, as I prefer to call it, must be able withstand all types of weather conditions. The beard (which undoubtedly forms a shield to Matt’s face) withstood the snow on top of the Remarkables, the rain in Raglan and the wind in Wellington. It grew at a fantastic rate and was best measured during the daily combing, or “puffing up” of the hair on his face.
As the time came for Matt to shear his beard, he purchased his shearer’s from The Warehouse (The Wall-mart of New Zealand), prepared the shearing shed (a.k.a. hallway sink in The Last Resort Hostel), and began the shearing process. While the remains of the burly beard did not produce quite the same impressive fur as our fellow sheep, his newly sheared face was a beauty: