Lost Australian sheep saved, yields 30 sweaters worth of fleece - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Lost Australian sheep saved, yields 30 sweaters worth of fleece

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(CNN) -- An Australian champion sheep shearer has set an unofficial world record after clipping a sheep that had become so overgrown its life was endangered.

The gigantic sheep, named "Chris" by a member of the public who found it just outside Australia's capital, Canberra, could barely walk when it was found.

Shearer Ian Elkins volunteered to shear the mammoth creature, which had to be sedated throughout the operation, after being contacted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in Australia.

He took 42 minutes to remove the 47 centimeter (18 inch) fleece, which the RSPCA said weighed 40.45 kilograms (89 pounds).

It easily beat the 27 kilogram (60 pound) fleece previously shorn from a New Zealand sheep, known as "Shrek."

It also trounced the official world record for the largest single fleece ever shorn, presently held by a New Zealand sheep called "Big Ben." Shearers stripped Ben of his 28.9 kilogram (68 pound) fleece in January 2014, according to the RSPCA.

Referring to Chris, Elkins said, "I don't think it's been shorn before and I think he's five or six years old."

"I wouldn't say it's high quality but you wouldn't expect it to be after so long in the bush," Elkins, a four-time Australian shearing champion, told the Canberra Times.

The RSPCA said sheep like Chris, a Merino that are bred especially for their wool, need to be shorn regularly or they can have trouble going to the bathroom and can develop serious medical issues like flystrike or infection.

An average Australian fleece in comparison weighs just five kilograms (11 pounds) and takes approximately three minutes to shear, according to Australian Wool Innovation (AWI).

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