Most of us have complained loudly and often that, during the pandemic, we’ve been unable to get our locks coloured and trimmed and styled. Grey hair and dark roots and frizzy split ends are now the order of the day, as many hair salons around the world haven’t been allowed to reopen, because the coronavirus continues and lockdown measures are instituted again and again to control the spread.
But that’s not Baarack’s excuse for having an unruly mane. In fact, Baarack’s reason for walking around – barely walking around, that is – with almost 80 pounds of wool on his body is unclear. What is known is that this domestic male sheep was once part of a regular herd in Australia, but somehow he got loose and made his way to a forest in Victoria.
He had been surviving on his own, but his locks had continued to grow, and grow, and grow, and by the time he was rescued and taken to Edgar’s Mission, an animal sanctuary, the wool had been pulled so far over his eyes he could barely see.
Unlike their wild cousins, Mouflon sheep, domestic sheep cannot shed their fleece on their own; they need man’s help every year to do it. And the wool provides their owners with a steady, and solid, living, so it’s a beneficial bargain between man and animal in which everybody wins.
But Baarack had to have been roaming around the forest solo for quite some time, judging by photos of him. His eyes were visible, as were his ankles, but that was about all. The fleece was heavy, matted with dirt and grime and full of wood bits and insects.
To make matters worse, Baarack’s vision was so impaired from one tiny seed of grass that he had a large ulcer over one eye, making it almost impossible for him to see. Thankfully, the shelter that took him in and nicknamed him Baarack, was able to get him shorn and brushed, and is tending to his ailments and skinny frame.
Incredibly, Baarack is not the first domesticated sheep to break free from his home, spend years in the wild and wind up with a head of fleece that endangered their life.
In 2015 (also in Australia) workers from the Royal Society For the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals (RSPCA) had an even heavier load of wool to deal with on Chris, who was carrying about 90 pounds of dirty fleece by the time staff took the shears to him.
Like Baarack, Chris was also painfully thin but otherwise had only minor health problems that were dealt with once the wool was gone. But the task of getting the wool from Chris was quite an undertaking. One worker told the Canberra Times, “just the sheer volume (of wool) and actually getting into the fleece was quite a challenge,” he said.
The amount of wool taken from Baarack would have been enough to knit almost 500 pairs of socks, or more than 60 sweaters. But since the wool had been through the ravages of outdoor living, it was in no shape for anything but the garbage pail.
Now, Baarack, like Chris a few years before him, is healthier, happier and a whole lot lighter since the animal caretakers intervened. Baarack, they say, should recover from his minor health issues quickly, and he’s now living his life happily penned in with his compatriots, and will be shorn each year along with his ovine buddies. You can stay up to date with Baarack and other animals at Edgar’s Mission here.
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For once, Barrack and Chris are examples of the good that can occur when man decides to help the animal kingdom. Both sides win, and the animals survive and thrive.