Could Sheep Shearing become an Olympic Sport?

Could Sheep Shearing become an Olympic Sport?

Competitive Sheep Shearing requires incredible precision, speed, endurance and strength combined with thousands of hours of practice; all of the qualities we attribute to Olympic athletes.

 Rachel Lumley, Secretary of the Shearing Section at this month’s Northumberland County Show, believes it would make an interesting competition for an international audience. She said, “Although for many, shearing sheep is a full time occupation, those involved in the competitive side wholly recognise what they do as a sport. Shearing 250 sheep in a day uses the same amount of energy as running a marathon. If curling and table tennis can be classed as Olympic Sports, then surely shearing should be included?”

 To strengthen its case, the British Isles Shearing Competitions Association (BISCA) aim to get shearing recognised as an official UK sport. The organisation is campaigning for 1700 members to sign their petition to get the proposal in motion. Colin McGregor, the Vice-Chairman of BISCA explains, “The shearers have to be 100% physically fit, have the mental aptitude and determination to focus on competitive success and believe that they are athletes in a respected sport.”

 Northumberland County Show, held on Bank Holiday Monday 27th May, is proud to be part of the ‘English Circuit’ that showcases some of the best shearers in the world. Ambitious contestants work their way through the rounds by attending at least 5 out of the 7 regional shows, (the Devon County Show; Great Yorkshire Show; Lakeland Shears; Northumberland County Show; Royal Bath & West Show; Royal Cornwall Show and Three Counties Show) culminating in the National Championship. Points accrued during the Circuit contribute to their qualification at the World Championships, held in Ireland on 21-25 May 2014.

 Bob Hindmarsh, Chief Steward of the Shearing Section explains, “We are delighted to welcome over 40 shearers from all over the world, and top class judges who come from as far away as Northern Scotland, Ireland and Devon. We have always had a great attendance as the Northumberland County Show, being early in the season, means many of the shearers haven’t started on their commercial work yet.”

This year’s show will see up to 900 sheep sheared in the course of the competition, all delivered in fleets of wagons throughout the day courtesy of Dave Hall, the manager of Chipchase Farms.

The Young Farmers have one of the least glamorous jobs; their volunteers trim the sheep bellies and around their tails prior to the competition in a process called ‘crutching’. Bob Hindmarsh explains “With so many sheep to clean and clip, it takes nearly 30 of them working in shifts to get through them all. We’re really grateful to everyone who helps behind the scenes, especially Whitley Chapel YFC whose members provide essential wool handling, time keeping and sheep handling on the day. Without their goodwill the show couldn’t go on.”

 Rachel Lumley concludes, “Whether or not Sheep Shearing attains Olympic status, I’m glad to see wool prices stabilising worldwide, making this a viable area of the sheep industry to be involved in and justifying the commitment by the shearers who do an excellent job.”

To see world class shearing for yourself, get discounts on advance tickets online at To find out more about courses or how to get involved in shearing, see Rachel Lumley would be delighted to hear from anyone willing to help with the crutching; call her on 07887 532351.


Some interesting facts about sheep shearing:

  • Shearing 250 sheep uses the same amount of energy as running a marathon.
  • Top class shearers can shear over 400 sheep in a day, working 7 days a week during the shearing season.
  • The day before a shearing contest, the sheep are brought under cover to keep them clean and dry.
  • In an Open Final, a top competitor has an oxygen intake of 1.6 litres per minute, and their heart rate can top 133 beats per minute.
  • The UK national flock count is 31.4 million sheep, the 5th largest population in the world.
  • The greatest numbers of sheep live in China (136 million) where traditionally they are sheared by women using scissors.
  • Australia has the largest output of wool, producing over 280,000 tonnes of wool per year from their 77million sheep.
  • The price of wool in 2012 was £150/kg, and has been almost the same for the last 3 years.