Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Luckily, an Australian Merino sheep that had likely wandered from his flock five or six years ago and had never been shorn was spotted by a concerned hiker who raised the alarm by contacting the Australian Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.With hooves that were barely visible and eyes mostly covered, the animal was the size of a refrigerator and the color of dirty snow. It was a matter of life and death — this sheep needed a haircut. The gigantic sheep, named “Chris,” who was found outside Canberra, could barely walk. His wool had grown to four to five times the normal amount of wool for a merino sheep, resulting in some serious health problems. Besides being partially blinded by the wool flopping into his eyes, his hooves were damaged from carrying the weight of all that extra wool. He also had skin burns from urine trapped in his fleece. Plus, had Chris fallen down, his mass of wool would have made it difficult to get back up, rendering him easy prey for predators. The RSRCA said the animal could have died within weeks if left in the wild.Shearer Ian Elkins volunteered to shear the mammoth creature, which had to be sedated throughout the operation. He took 42 minutes to remove the 18-inch fleece, which weighed 89 pounds 3 ounces.Merino sheep, like Chris, are bred especially for their wool and are sheared annually as a benefit to the animals’ own welfare. Regular shearing prevents excess wool from interfering with their bodies’ ability to thermo-regulate. Excessive wool coats also make the sheep more vulnerable to becoming immobilized by physical obstacles in the environment and more susceptible to predator and parasite attacks.An average Australian fleece in comparison weighs just 11 pounds and takes approximately three minutes to shear.