Sheep Shearing Day

| 4/11/2016 11:28:00 AM

Chris shearing a sheep

The ground is still firm in the mornings — ice crystals shimmering on the bare garden soil as the morning light bedazzles off their edges. But the crystals don’t last long as the sun climbs and warms the early spring air. The first of the robins bob about in the lawn, and the little peaking tops of rhubarb leaves have pierced through their compost cover, waiting for just a little warmer weather before bursting forth.

Another right of spring comes today — sheep shearing. One of the first animals to be domesticated (after dogs), wild sheep’s wool naturally sheds in the springtime.  The itchy sensation encourages the animals to rub on trees, bushes, and stone, leaving behind little tufts that are favored by the birds of the area for nest building.

Some livestock, like angora goats and rabbits, still shed this way, and their fleece has to be harvested either by combing the tufts off the animals or gathering it up from fences and pastures.

But the process of domestication and selective breeding can change so much in an animal — from temperament, to build, to even coat structure. Sheep fleeces changed from the natural shedding to needing to be clipped off by human intervention. 

We’ve done this with our dog breeding as well.  Some dogs, like their predecessor wolves, shed their winter undercoats in the spring. Our sheep dog Lena does this in fully “poofing” force, with fuzzy bits sticking to the furniture and carpet or blowing off in the breeze on a windy day. But other dog breeds, like Steve’s Cockapoo named Bo, has to go in for a haircut. In the wild, this would be completely unpractical! But with human caretakers, it’s part of the process of having these animals.

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