CANBERRA, Australia -- A lost, overgrown sheep found in Australian scrubland was shorn for perhaps the first time on Thursday, yielding 89 pounds of wool - the equivalent of 30 sweaters - and shedding almost half his body weight.
Tammy Ven Dange, chief executive of the Canberra RSPCA, which rescued the merino ram dubbed Chris, said she hoped to register the 89 pound, 3 ounce fleece with the Guinness World Records. An official of the London-based organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The most wool sheared from a sheep in a single shearing is 63 pounds, 11 ounces taken from a wild New Zealand merino dubbed Big Ben in January last year, the Guinness World Records website said.
"He's looking really good, he looks like a new man," Ven Dange said, as the now 97-pound sheep recovered at the Canberra animal refuge. "For one thing, he's only half the weight he used to be."
Champion shearer Ian Elkins said the sheep appeared to be in good condition after being separated from his huge fleece under anesthetic.
"I don't reckon he's been shorn before and I reckon he'd be 5 or 6 years old," Elkins said.
Chris was found near Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary outside Canberra by bushwalkers who feared he would not survive the approaching southern summer. He was found several miles from the nearest sheep farm. A bushwalker named him Chris after the sheep in the "Father Ted" television comedy series.
Chris was rescued by the RSPCA on Wednesday and taken to Canberra, where he was shorn under anesthetic because he was stressed by human company and because of the potential pain from the heavy fleece tearing skin as it fell away.
Ven Dange said he had suffered skin burns from urine trapped in his fleece and could have died within weeks if left in the wild.
"When we first brought him in yesterday, he was really shy, he was shaking, he would move his head away from people and he could barely get up and walk," she said.
"The drugs might be wearing off right now, but he's actually coming to you and actually wants a pat. He's certainly moving a heck of a lot better," she added.
She said Chris would be found a new home after vets gave him the all-clear.
Elkins said the fleece was too long to be sold commercially. He hoped it would end up in a museum.
"I wouldn't say it's high quality, but you wouldn't expect it to be running around in the bush that long unshorn," he said.
Australian merinos are bred for wool and are shorn annually, with fleeces averaging about 11 pounds.