October 3, 2008
Some 2,700 sheep were lining up to shed their wool in Norway on Thursday as the 13th Golden Shears World Championships began in the southwestern village of Bjerkreim. Around 100 sheep shearers from a record 28 countries, including Australia, Montenegro, France, the United States and New Zealand, will display their skills in the four-day competition.
"This is not just about speed but is also a question of technique," explained event spokeswoman Elin Ravndal Bell. "Shearers who cut their animals lose points."
It can take as little as 20 seconds to shear an entire sheep, but at the world championships, the times usually average around 30 to 40 seconds. Clipping with scissors, or blade shearing, meanwhile takes around two minutes.
Shearers will be tested both in teams and as individuals in three different categories: machine shearing, blade shearing and wool handling.
The machine shearing team competing for the United States is made up of Loren Opstedahl (S.D.) and Dough Rathke (Minn.). Rathke and Kevin Ford (Mass.) are the U.S. blade shearing team, and Rathke has also teamed up with Leann Brimmer (Mont.) to complete in the wool handling competition.
The American Sheep Industry Association provides some financial support for shearing teams competing in the world championships.