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Farm Sheep Emerges From Cave After Six Years (Photos)

| by Robert Fowler

When a sheep disappeared without a trace from a farm in New Zealand, he became a local legend. That mythic reputation only deepened when the missing animal emerged from a cave with a fleece robust enough to clothe 20 people.

Shrek was a Merino sheep living on a farm in Bendigo Hill, New Zealand. He was one of 17,000 sheep owned by wool farmer John Perriam, but became famous after escaping and eluding capture for six years. The Merino's quest for freedom from shearing made him the stuff of local folklore, Shareably reports.

In 2004, Shrek stunned his owner when he emerged from a local cave like a fairy tale creature awakened from its slumber. His fleece had grown to an enormous length, making him look like an oversized piece of popcorn.

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Perriam said that his prodigal sheep looked "like some biblical creature."

Shrek's fleece weighed in at a whopping 60 pounds. The process of shearing off his six years' worth of wool had to be carried out by a professional and took a full 20 minutes to complete.

After Shrek was freshly sheared, the resulting pile of wool formed a large pile.

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The Merino had grown out such a thick fleece that his sheared wool was enough material to make 20 full men's suits. The wool was auctioned off, the proceeds given to medical charities for children.

Shrek was sheared just in the nick of time. Farmed sheep like Shrek are bred to have fleeces that never stop growing. His gigantic coat of hair not only engulfed him but was becoming a risk for his health, according to The Dodo.

The Merino became a national celebrity, even being invited to meet with former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and written about in children's books. Perriam believes his elusive sheep captures peoples' imagination, the BBC reports.

"He was just an ordinary sheep, went AWOL and hid, and when he was found he became the darling of the nation," Perriam said.

The proud farmer added that Shrek "had an unbelievable personality. He loved children and he was really good with the elderly in retirement homes."

In 2011, Shrek died at 16 years old. His life was commemorated with a bronze statue in the nearby town of Tekapo.

During his career as a famous sheep, Shrek had helped raise more than $150,000 for children's charities.

"At the end of the day, it is the death of an iconic Kiwi," said Josie Spillane of Cure Kids. "He just happens to be a sheep."

Sources: BBC, The Dodo via Archive.orgShareably / Photo credit: John Abel/Flickr, Earth Porm via Shareably

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