As It Happens

Prickles the sheep was sheared for 1st time in 7 years, and 'she took it very well'

Prickles the sheep finally got a hair cut, and she took it like champ.

The Tasmanian merino was lost in a wildfire in 2013 and returned home with a 'glorious' fleece

On the left: Prickles the sheep after seven years on the lam. On the right: Prickles after having her wool cut for the first time ever. (Alice Gray/Alice Bennett Photography)

This story was originally published on May 4, 2020.


Prickles the sheep finally got a haircut.

The merino had gone unshorn since she got lost as a lamb during a 20,000-hectare wildfire in the Australian state of Tasmania in 2013.

The resilient creature not only survived the flames, but thrived on her own in the wilderness for seven years before finally returning home last month with a massive mound of fleece that owner Alice Gray described as "glorious."

But her beloved fluff was sheared away on May 1 to much fanfare.

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"She was a bit nervous, of course, being in our shearing shed. And we had two different TV crews who turned up to watch because Prickles is a big celebrity in Australia. But she took it very well and she didn't protest at all," Gray told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"Now she is quite a bit smaller and much, much faster running around the paddock."

Fleece 'weighed much less than we thought'

Prickles generated international headlines with her triumphant return last month, so Gray decided to use the attention for a good cause.

She held an online contest for people to guess the weight of the sheep's wool, with all proceeds going to the UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, to help deal with the impact of COVID-19. 

After all was said and done, 13.6 kilograms of fluffy white wool was removed from Prickles. (Alice Gray/Alice Bennett Photography)

In the end, it took only six minutes to shear 13.6 kilograms of wool off Prickles. 

That's not even close to the Guinness world record for most wool sheared from a sheep — an honour that belongs to Chris the Merino at 42.45 kg.

"We were surprised about the weight of her fleece, because she looks so huge and the outer edge of her fleece was quite rough, which is why we called her Prickles," Gray said.

"It was so soft and so white and so fluffy underneath that it came off beautifully and weighed much less than we thought."

So many of us are at our homes isolating all over the world and we see so much news. We see so much sadness everywhere. I think a good news story is just what everybody needs.- Alice Gray, sheep farmer

It wasn't a surprise to everyone, though. An American named Diane guessed the exact weight of the wool, and will be rewarded with a certificate of appreciation, as well as bragging rights.

'She doesn't seem to mind it at all'

In the meantime, Prickles is adapting well to her new look and her new life on the farm, Gray said.

"She doesn't seem to mind it at all as long as she's with the sheep that she's now very attached to," Gray said.

"There's a particular sheep that always gets between Prickles and anyone who walks into the paddock or the shed, so I think she's got some pretty strong bonds with other sheep now."

Prickles the sheep was shorn for the first time in seven years.

4 years ago
Duration 1:37
Prickles the sheep was shorn for the first time in seven years.

The Grays have raised $12,692 AUD ($11,476.07 Cdn) for the UNHCR as of Monday, and the donations are still coming in even after the contest closed. 

She says the UN organization plans to make something out of the wool and auction it off. 

"So once again, in Prickles's name, there will be more money going toward this essential cause," she said. 

Gray says she's been blown away by the popularity of Prickles, but she understands the sheep's mass appeal.

"So many of us are at our homes isolating all over the world and we see so much news. We see so much sadness everywhere," she said.

"I think a good news story is just what everybody needs."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Morgan Passi. 

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