A profession off the sheep’s back

A profession off the sheep’s back

Think of the New Zealand countryside and it is hard not to imagine a landscape that includes a shearing shed.

Whether it is the steepest “tiger” country of the Paraparas or the wide open wind swept spaces of the Mackenzie Country, the shearing shed is an iconic part of those landscapes.

Shearing’s intense combination of machine, animals and men (or women) working in a synchronised dance has developed its own routines, language and characters defining many of our rural communities.

Today those hard working shearers are elevated to the status of athletes, respected for their technique as much as their sheer physical fitness, capable of performing for days on end with a hypnotising grace that has turned a seasonal task into a nail biting, high octane spectator sport.

But it was not always this way. Back in the mid-1800s shearers were dismissed by politicians and citizens alike as the “very dregs of colonial democracy”.


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