Lister News | 13 July 2023

The Sport of Sheep Shearing

When we think of sports, images of athletes on a field or court often come to mind. However, there is a lesser-known sport that demands incredible skill, physical endurance, and intense training: sheep shearing. Although it may seem unconventional, sheep shearing is classified as a sport.

Shearing a sheep is much more than a simple task. It requires immense precision, agility, and strength, making it a very physically demanding job. Shearers train rigorously to develop the skills and endurance needed to excel in the sport.

To become a capable shearer, extensive training is required. Novice shearers often go on training courses such as The British Wool Training Courses, or work under experienced shearers to learn the techniques and gain hands-on experience. They learn the proper positioning, handling, and movements needed to remove the wool efficiently while considering the sheep's welfare.

Physical fitness is a crucial aspect of shearing. Shearers must have the strength and stamina to maintain a working rhythm over long hours. The repetitive motion of shearing can be physically exhausting, putting strain on the shearers' backs, shoulders, and arms. To cope with the demands of the job, shearers often perform strengthening and conditioning exercises, cardiovascular training, and flexibility routines to prevent injuries and maintain performance.

Shearing competitions have become a prominent part of the shearing industry, further strengthening its status as a sport. These events gather shearers from all over the world to showcase their skills, speed, and efficiency. Competitions range from local and regional levels to national and international championships, such as The Golden Shears.

In these competitions, shearers compete against the clock to shear as many sheep as possible within a specified time frame. Judges assess the quality of the shearing, looking for clean and well-finished work. Speed is of the essence, but shearers must balance it with precision to avoid any nicks or cuts that could harm the sheep or affect the quality of the wool.

Just like any other sport, shearing competitions have their stars and legends. Lister’s very own Sir David Fagan is a prime example of how mastering the sport of shearing can open countless opportunities. Since taking on shearing as a child, David has racked up a sizeable list of victories, 5x World Champion, 7x World Team Champion, 16x NZ Golden Shears Champion, 17x NZ Open Champion, and 6 World Records, amounting to 642 open class wins.

Shearing engages both the mind and the body, and shearers must stay calm under pressure to deliver consistent and quality results. Sheep shearing may not fit the traditional mold of a sport, but its classification as such is well-deserved. The demanding training regimens, physical exertion, and competitive nature of shearing competitions clearly demonstrate the athletic talent required to excel in the field.