Two days ago, I took part in the annual rounding up, shearing, and manicuring of 20 sheep at a friend’s small holding. The 100 strong flock (yes we only managed to ‘process’ a fifth) are a mixture of Soay and Boreray. The former being a primitive breed dating back thousands of years and the latter being one of the rarest breeds in Britain!
Being a lover (not in the Biblical sense) of all things cute and fluffy, I spent most of the day hugging the lambs, chirping at the newly hatched chickens, stroking the farm cats and feeling sorry for the sheep being manhandled into submission. Boreray are supposed to be self shearing – not with a razor, foam and a mirror – and under the right conditions, their fleece falls off, is rubbed off against a tree or can easily be removed by hand (ruing).
Unfortunately, quite a lot of the sheep had matted fleeces which required a little more than gentle teasing off. So, with the owner wielding his newly purchased electric clippers and his helpers armed with hand shears, we chopped and hacked away at the panic stricken sheep for 6 hours! It was back-breaking, messy work and far from leaving the sheep beautifully coiffed, the result was not too dissimilar from a child’s attempt at giving Barbie a haircut with a pair of blunt, plastic school scissors. To add insult to injury, the newly acquired clippers left gouges on their flanks and knicks on their chins! As we stood back to view our tragic handiwork, we contemplated what revenge may befall us should there ever be a sheep uprising!