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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Postcard from the Past: Shearing Sheep

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Last week’s Postcard featured the sheepherder. This week we relate more of the story taken from an article in the March 1, 1908 issue of  The Wyoming Industrial Journal, entitled “Herding and Shearing Sheep” by Arthur Chapmann.

Sheep shearing brings to the front another interesting class of men – the shearers. These men begin their work in the South, where the shearing is early and work north through the season, finishing their work in Montana and Canada.

The shearing is done early in the summer. Herders bring up their bands of sheep and run the animals into pens. Shearers in the pens grasp the animals, and soon the keen knives are cutting through the wool. 

The fleece comes off almost in a single garment, so neatly do the skilled shearers work.

Despite the exhausting nature of the work, the men standing all day in a stooping posture, some astonishing records are made. 

One shearer, Frank Hewitt of Saratoga, who is credited with being the champion shearer of the U.S., won a medal at a Chicago exposition, in competition with 19 other shearers, by shearing 100 sheep in three hours and 27 minutes. 

It is said this shearer turns out an average of 175 sheep a day through the shearing season. About 100 sheep a day may be accepted as the general average for a shearer.

With a dozen men shearing sheep with such rapidity, it is no wonder wool is soon stacked high in sacks at the sheds, ready for shipment.

The operators get eight cents per fleece, so it is seen their pay is relatively high, though it is none too much when one considers the exhausting nature of the work, the shortness of the shearing season and the traveling expenses going from one pen to another, frequently hundreds of miles.

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “Sheep shearing is the process by which the woolen fleece of a sheep is cut off. The person who removes the sheep’s wool is called a shearer. Typically each adult sheep is shorn once each year – depending upon dialect, a sheep may be said to have been shorn, sheared or shore in Australia. The annual shearing most often occurs in a shearing shed, a facility especially designed to process often hundreds and sometimes more than 3,000 sheep per day.”

Next week we will explore the shipping of wool from ranches, shearing pens and sheds.

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