With bikini season in full swing, our four resident sheep have shed a few pounds – 8 pounds of wool, to be exact.
Mary, Matha, Alice, and Herbert look a little lighter than usual in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo farmyard. To keep them cool and comfortable during warmer months and to prevent their hair from covering their eyes, they are carefully sheared twice a year. Summer temperatures have been known to get as high as 110 degrees in Dallas, and that’s too warm if you’re wearing a wool coat.
But it’s not as easy as getting a haircut. Each sheep was bathed with a special lanolin shampoo a day before so its thick wool could dry completely before shearing. With the help of our Junior Zookeepers, all of the dirt, pine shavings, and hay that had hibernated into their wool was removed. The next day, one by one, the sheep were brought into the barn for a gentle trimming with electric clippers. Unlike commercial farms, where shearing is done quickly, our staff takes their time to ensure that it’s a good experience for the animals.
Ours also don’t have as much wool as other species of sheep, because they’re one of the smallest breeds, often called miniatures. Known as Babydoll Southdown sheep, they’re one of the oldest English breeds, originating in the South Down hills of Sussex County, England. And they produce some of the best wool — their fleece is so fine, it’s put into the class of cashmere.
Of course, we never want to see anything go to waste. “We give the wool to other animals in the Zoo as part of enrichment,” zookeeper Sarah Brys said. “They can smell it, play with it, just get a sense of another animal’s coat.”