In Spain, they have the running of the bulls. In New Zealand we have running of the sheep.
Mention the small town of Te Kuiti and most New Zealanders automatically think of sheep. It might have something to do with the fact that the NZ Shearing championships are held there or the fact that David Fagan, a world champion shearer comes from Te Kuiti. They have a huge statue of a shearer in the town centre. Each year they host the annual running of the sheep. The run took place a few days ago, and they had a few problems this year. The sheep ran amok, leaping over barriers designed to protect the spectators. One woman was knocked out. Around 1500 sheep were released and only 400 crossed the finish line.
Here’s a Youtube from a previous year showing images and live footage plus some foot-tapping music. Enjoy!
When people think about sheep and New Zealand, they often start with sheep jokes. I couldn’t find any definite figures on the number of sheep in NZ, but the numbers have definitely declined in recent years due to a surge in dairy farming. I know my father used to have quite a few sheep but has scarcely any these days. My sister has a pet lamb (now fully grown) called Pandora who terrorizes our little dog every time she visits. Scotty knows to keep far, far away from Pandora. I had pet lambs when I was a kid and entered agricultural shows. I still remember my pet lamb, Belinda. She was a real champion.
Some sheep facts from An Encyclopedia of New Zealand 1966 for the historians among us…
– New Zealand’s first sheep were set ashore by Captain Cook on 20 May 1773.
– Rapid sheep population growth in the 1850s and 1860s was mostly attributable to permanent immigration rather than natural increase. In 1864 alone, 13,000 sheep arrived in Canterbury from Australia. Droughts meant that sheep could always be bought cheaply from Australia. Drought continues to affect Australian farmers and sheep numbers.
– The first shipment of frozen lamb and mutton sailed to London from Port Chalmers aboard the Dunedin in 1882.
What would you do if a sheep came charging at you during the running of the sheep?