As It Happens

Prickles the sheep comes home after 7 years with 'glorious' unsheared fleece

A little lamb that disappeared during a devastating Australian bushfire seven years ago has returned home a "massive and fluffy" sheep. Now her owners are using the happy story to raise money for refugees impacted by COVID-19.

Tasmanian farmers use the ‘happy story’ to raise money for refugees affected by COVID-19

Prickles the sheep has made a triumphant return home to her Tasmanian farm after seven years on the lam. (Alice Gray/Alice Bennett Photography)


A little lamb who disappeared during a devastating Australian bushfire seven years ago has returned home as a "massive and fluffy" sheep.

The creature, who is now called Prickles, hasn't been shorn since she got stuck on the wrong side of a fence rebuilt in the aftermath of a 20,000-hectare fire that ravaged the state of Tasmania in 2013.

But the growth hasn't hampered her. She's a barefaced merino, which means wool doesn't grow on her face and prevent her from seeing. 

"She's quite a sight to behold and she's quite glorious. But luckily, she was very healthy under all of that, and very nimble for such extreme proportions," sheep farmer Alice Gray, who owns Prickles, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"She still managed to tire out my husband while he was chasing her around the bush."

A birthday surprise 

Gray says her family's farm has thousands of sheep, and they didn't realize one was missing until her father-in-law installed a night vision camera on the property.

"He was looking back over the footage and saw this great white, fluffy thing come and peer down into the lens," she said.

Then, recently, the family was outside having a barbecue for their son Barclay's sixth birthday when Prickles appeared again.

A family of Australian farmers managed to wrangle this long-lost sheep into their truck after she returned home after seven years. (Alice Gray/Alice Bennett Photography)

"While we were setting up, we looked across a dam and we saw this big round thing on the other side of the dam — like, oh my God, I think that is that crazy sheep we saw in the video," Gray said.

"So we were just having our barbecue lunch when my husband went missing. And about 15 minutes later, he called back and he was puffing and panting. … He'd trapped the sheep in the corner of a paddock and was lying on it."

It took a group effort to wrangle the massive sheep into the back of the truck and return it to the flock, where Gray says she is now settling in nicely.

Prickles the sheep, unshorn in seven years, takes up a whole lot more space than her flockmates. (Alice Gray/Alice Bennett Photography)

"We have a few turkeys and ducks. She was chasing them around, having a wonderful time. But then she was put in with some sheep, and she now just seems to be part of the flock again," she said.

"They're very comfortable wandering around together, despite the fact she's about five times the size of the others."

Wool measuring contest for refugee charity 

Prickles and her wool have been garnering a lot of attention and news coverage for the Gray family, so they decided to seize the opportunity to do some good.

They've scheduled Prickles to be shorn on May 1, and in the meantime, are holding a fundraising contest where people can make a donation and guess the weight of her wool.

Proceeds will go to UNHCR, the United Nations' refugee agency, to help people in refugee camps impacted by COVID-19.

"We decided that the worst place on the planet to be at the moment with this disease would be in a refugee camp," Gray said. 

"So we're using the happy story of Prickles coming home with her amazing fleece for a good cause."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Morgan Passi.

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