Just an average, run of the mill merino wool sheep went missing from his herd on South Island farm back in 1998. He was presumed dead or missing until he was found in a mountain cave six years later sporting a massive fleece that made him appear three times his normal size.
Suddenly, news of the found sheep made headlines and his bulging fleece prompted locals to name his Shrek.
He soon cultivated celebrity status, with television stations carrying live broadcasts when a shearer clipped his oversize fleece, which weighed in at almost 27 kilograms (60 pounds), around six times the wool normally gathered from the average merino.
Shrek was even flown to meet then prime minister Helen Clark at the national parliament in Wellington, became the subject of several children’s books and made regular charity appearances.
As his owner John explains: “He was just an ordinary sheep, went AWOL and hid, and when he was found he became the darling of the nation. He had an unbelievable personality. He loved children and he was really good with the elderly in retirement homes.”
This week, the nation mourned when news of his death spread through the media. Shrek’s death made the front-pages of New Zealand newspapers and was the lead story for many newscasts.
In a country where sheep outnumber the human population of 4.3 million by almost 10 to one, it is not surprising how popular Shrek was. So much so, that museums are fighting to get Shrek’s body on public display.
Te Papa, the country’s national museum in Wellington, confirmed it was in negotiations to exhibit the famous ovine. However, the Otago Museum, near Shrek’s South Island farm, has also shown interest. Clare Wilson, museum director of collection and research for the Otago Museum explained their interest: “As an Otago icon, we believe he will be very comfortable with us, and it will allow his ‘locals’ to reunite with him often.”
The museums will have to wait and see as Shrek’s owner John Perriam has yet to decide on his famous ovine’s fate. In the meantime, he is “on ice” awaiting the international news media to arrive for Shrek’s memorial service at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo.