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World record breaking fleece on display at RSPCA ACT

17 February 2016

RSPCA ACT in partnership with the National Museum of Australia is proud to launch the display of 'Chris' the sheep's record-breaking fleece.

RSPCA ACT CEO Tammy Ven Dange said, 'We had numerous opportunities with the fleece, but at the end, we believed that it should be preserved in its entirety and displayed as a reminder of how dependent these animals are on humans for their welfare. The National Museum already has a wonderful pastoral industry collection that tells of their history in this country. As such, we felt that they were the most appropriate partner to preserve the story of 'Chris' and his very woolly fleece.'

National Museum of Australia Director Dr Mathew Trinca said the Museum was acquiring the fleece for its National Historical Collection.

A very woolly sheep
Chris’s first day at the RSPCA shelter. Courtesy RSPCA ACT.

'The phrase "Australia rides on the sheep's back" became a truism from the late 19th century as the wool industry took off, underpinning the national economy and culture for decades,' said Dr Trinca.

'Chris illustrates how modern domestic sheep have been bred not to lose their wool and what happens when they are not shorn regularly,' said Dr Trinca.

'The story also represents the important role the RSPCA plays in animal welfare in Australia and we are delighted to incorporate the fleece into the National Museum's collection,' he said.

Last August, Chris was found in Mulligan's Flat near the ACT/NSW border by a member of the public who contacted RSPCA ACT Inspectors. After a few days of searching, a team of RSPCA ACT staff members and the finder were able to locate Chris and bring him back to the shelter. At the time, Chris could barely walk, and RSPCA vets were also concerned about possibilities of infection under the wool.

Under the guidance of RSPCA ACT veterinarians and with the help of a shearer, 41.1 kilograms of wool was taken off Chris setting a new Guinness World Record by over 12 kilograms.

Ven Dange was still amazed that he lived through this ordeal: 'Chris's story was one of survival. How did he manage to avoid feral foxes and dogs? How did he go unnoticed for so long? How did he manage to find adequate food and water while carrying his body weight in wool?' Chris is now in good spirits as he is fully recovered and enjoying life alongside other sheep on an undisclosed farm in NSW.

RSPCA ACT and the National Museum of Australia would like to invite members of the public to view the record-breaking fleece at RSPCA ACT's Weston shelter located at 12 Kirkpatrick Street, Weston Creek, from Thursday, 18 February.

Chris the Sheep's fleece on display
Chris the sheep's fleece on display. Photo: Jason McCarthy.

Ven Dange said, 'Canberra is known for a lot of things, but the display could possibly become another tourist attraction in itself given the national and international interest in his story. For one, the fleece is massive and the display shows this really well! It's hard to believe that any animal could carry this amount of wool around for five or six years and still live to tell the tale!'

The fleece remained at RSPCA ACT until April 2016, when it was moved to the National Museum, where it is part of the permanent collection.

For more information please contact:

RSPCA logo

Joshua Pickham, Marketing Coordinator, RSPCA ACT
Phone: 02 6287 8110

Tracy Sutherland, Public Affairs Manager, National Museum of Australia
Phone: 0438 620710

See a selection of photos below:

  • a photo of a very woolly sheep in a paddock
  • a photo of a very woolly sheep being carried by four people
  • A photo of a very woolly sheep on the ground
  • a photo of a very woolly sheep being shorn.
  • a photo of a very woolly sheep being shorn
  • A photo of a sheep post shearing
  • A photo of a sheep
  • A photo of a large bag of fleece on scales
  • A photo of two sheep in a paddock
  • RSPCA CEO Tammy Ven Dange with Chris the Sheep's fleece.
  • a media event
  • a media event
  • media event