Overgrown Sheep Gets a Record-Setting Haircut

In this 'before' photo, Chris the sheep shows off an impressively overgrown fleece. Tammy Van Denge/Twitter

A very woolly sheep in Australia is feeling light on his feet after losing about 89 pounds (40.55 kilograms) of overgrown fleece.

The gigantic Merino sheep was rescued by the local Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) just outside of Canberra, Australia's capital. The organization put out a call for assistance, looking for a shearer willing to tackle the monstrous challenge.

“Help!” tweeted local RSPCA CEO Tammy Ven Dange. The RSPCA “needs help from a shearer immediately to hopefully save this sheep we just rescued!”

The sheep likely wandered away from his herd and had somehow managed to survive alone in the bush, said authorities.

"It's definitely one of the biggest sheep we've ever seen," Ven Dange told AFP, suggesting that the animal was "four to five times its normal size".

Sheep-shearing champion Ian Elkins volunteered to take on the risky task, in hopes of saving the creature's life. The RSPCA said if Merino sheep are left unshorn, they can have problems going to the bathroom and can develop serious medical issues including infections, reported CNN. Van Denge estimated that the sheep "had five years of wool on him" and said "he could barely walk."

The sheep, named Chris by the person who found him, had to be sedated for the clipping. It took Elkins 42 minutes to remove the 18-inch fleece, setting an unofficial world record. The official world record for the largest single fleece ever shorn is currently held by a New Zealand sheep called Big Ben. Shearers clipped Ben's 68-pound (28.9-kilogram) fleece in January 2014.

Vets said Chris had some minor health concerns under all that wool, but nothing serious. The much-lighter sheep has a new home awaiting him that's "the perfect place for him to relax and enjoy his new fame away from the paparazzi," tweeted Van Denge.