Competitive sheep shearing in the French Alps

A few days ago, in a tradition usually associated with New Zealand or Australia, a town in the high French Alps engaged in an exciting sheep shearing competition. The point of a sheep shearing competition is to shear a sheep as fast as you can. The person whose sheep is completely sheared first wins.

As you can see in this video, these are some very skilled sheep shearers. I’ve never sheared a sheep myself, so I don’t think I even really appreciate how special these talented sheep shearers are, but I’m still impressed. Also, I love the facial expressions of the sheep while they’re being sheared.

The farmers in this French Alpine town decided to hold this unusual event to boost the local economy and to promote tourism in the area. The fastest competitor in the contest sheared his sheep in one minute and eleven seconds. Not bad at all. But nowhere near the New Zealand record for the fastest sheared sheep: 25 seconds. That's fast.

When I’m getting a haircut, I like to relax and enjoy myself for as long as possible. As I watched these sheep being sheared in just over a minute, I couldn't help but wonder if they felt cheated out of their normal relaxing haircut. I suppose one rushed haircut is okay when it’s for a good cause: fun competition, camaraderie, and a little publicity for a small French town. 

As I mentioned, competitive sheep shearing is most popular in Australia and New Zealand, but it’s also pretty common in England, Ireland, Wales and South Africa. The next World Championship of sheep shearing will take place in Llanelwedd, Wales in July, 2010.

Photo: sirwiseowl via Flickr (CC license)

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