Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sheep's clothing

Two men broke out of a maximum-security prison in La Alameda, Argentina, disguised themselves as wolves in sheep's clothing, and hid among a huge flock of sheep to evade capture by the hundreds of police looking for them. As of today, they are apparently still on the lam (avoiding a cringe-worthy pun here). This news broke on April 13th. Three days earlier, it was noted in the press that British breeders are developing sheep that shed their fleeces naturally each spring, rather than having to be shorn. One farmer explains, "...the value of wool has reduced so much recently that it's no longer economically viable to produce. Shearing has just become a necessity and, quite frankly, a nuisance." These 2 stories provoked a search for eyebrow-raising ovine/wool news, rather than an exhaustive weird news round-up about sheep in general.

A suburban sheep was being crushed by the weight of 3 years' worth of wool. Such a situation is abusive, because sheep have been bred to grow wool continuously and suffer without their annual haircut. "The weight of the wool was putting extra pressure on his joints and he was having difficulty eating because he couldn't move his head up and down. If the wool gets wet, it can weigh up to five times as much. Sheep can actually get stuck on the ground if they aren't shorn," says an RSPCA inspector. A breeder of rare sheep swathed herself in the wool of her favorite one, Olivia, for her wedding ceremony and made a stunning walk down the aisle: "I took one look at her, my lip curled like a young sheep's does and I started blubbering," said her husband. As wool-producers, Icelandic sheep are known for their 17 distinct varieties of colors and patterns: "Solids and tweeds, ranging from snow white through the creamy ivories, milky browns, taupes, silvers, charcoals, blue greys to dark brown and black. All these colors are available naturally to the handspinner, weaver, or yarn buyer, without using a dye process at all. Of course, the white fleeces do take dyes beautifully if that is what is wanted," raves HeartsEase Farm. Icelandic sheep also carry a genetic trait that causes multiple births, but other breeds also have unique features, like the fat-tailed sheep in this list and the dreadlocked sheep here.

Lastly, speaking of sheep's clothing, goats that produce cashmere have been cloned and photos of pigs that grow wool have been circulated. Suddenly, I have an urge to buy a sweater...

1 comment:

  1. What a fabulous post, Chris! Very interesting. Where is the photo from? It'd be good protocol to credit them, as well as keeping with the laws of either US Fair Use, or Canadian Fair Dealing !


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