Shearing Sheep

We lived in Oregon for a large chunk of the ’90s. After adjusting to the change experienced from leaving the San Francisco Bay Area, I fell in love with Oregon. Of course, it has a an amazing fiber-related culture: wool growers, weavers, spinners, knitters, crocheters, quilters, and great fiber-related events (e.g., Black Sheep Festival in Eugene, Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival in Canby, The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Sisters, etc.). So what’s not to love (as long as you can handle the rain if you’re on the west side of the Cascades).

It was in Oregon that I first witnessed sheep shearing. I went through a stage where I was determined to learn how to shear sheep and even found a series of classes in Roseberg. I moved east for a job, however, and put aside the sheep shearing idea.

But the other day I decided to look at it again. Until recently I knew of only two ways to shear sheep: using hand clippers and using machine shears. Last week I watched a series of videos of demonstrations of each. Here are two of my favorites: using hand clippers and using machine shears. (By the way, when you see Emily Chamelin using the hand clippers, you may notice her unusual footwear. Those, I learned, are felted, flat (for balance, will not slip, and are like slippers (ballet?) so the wearers can move their feet in all directions as they hold the sheep between their legs! I didn’t notice the shoes of the men using machine shears.)

I discovered a third way that works only on Shetland Sheep called “rooing.” It is done completely by hand (no shears)! According to Kathy Baker (pic from her article):

Rooing is the process of removing the fleece from the sheep by hand plucking the wool. Many Shetland sheep retain a complete or partial tendency to shed the current year’s fleece growth in late spring or early summer. At the point where the fibre diameter becomes thinner and weaker, the fleece breaks quite easily. It does not hurt the sheep when the weakened fibres are plucked or roo’d by hand.

Watch two Shetlands get roo’d here and here … amazing.

Well, I know what to ask Thor for my next birthday!


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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27 Responses to Shearing Sheep

  1. Melissa Honor says:

    I am actually writing because I need some help and thought seasoned sheep farmers / shearers would be the best resource.
    We took in 3 Delano Marino sheep because who we were told would be good for food and that the wool from the sheep is very valuable. We have never raised sheep before and have found it to be too much of a challenge. We are butchering the sheep on the first and have no idea what to do about the wool and pelt or WHO to go to to get it managed for us.
    In addition we are not sure what to do as far as the pelt and wool.
    We would like to make a “little” profit off the Fleece and pelt but not sure how to go about it OR who to go to we live in Eugene.
    We know The butcher gives us the pelt with the wool – should we have the sheep sheared the day before or take the pelt with wool and have it dried? We cant keep the pelts for personal reasons. ANY guidance and / or referrals would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you!
    Melissa Honor


  2. Pingback: Wool Musings | The Sweaty Knitter, Weaver and Devotee of Other Fiber Arts

  3. I’ve spun in the grease … yup, indeed rather smelly! And it’s certainly not fun to have to stop to pick out “organic particulates” (for lack of a better word) from the fleece. 🙂


  4. There was a sheep to shawl contest at the last Sock Summit, and they brought in sheep to be sheared. Fascinating! That was definitely spinning in-the-grease. Blech.

    OFFF is coming this weekend, hooray!


  5. caityrosey says:

    Agreed. It looks much more relaxing. So long as you have clever fingers, it would probably feel good.


  6. streepie says:

    Thanks for the digging! I thought there MUST be drawbacks to this approach!


  7. Not collies, the border terriers. Wet dog has got to be worse than wet sheep, wet smelly dog is just one good reason not to knit with the stuff in my opinion. 🙂

    This is long but the first few seconds will give you the gist:


  8. Not collies, the border terriers. Wet dog has got to be worse than wet sheep, wet smelly dog is just one good reason not to knit with the stuff in my opinion. 🙂


  9. I read your comment just as I was getting ready to shut down my pc for the night, but I just HAD to do a little digging. From “Researchers in Australia injected sheep with a GE hormone so the fleece fell off without shearing. The animals suffered severe sunburn and heat stress and an increased chance of miscarriage.” I will do more digging. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.


  10. streepie says:

    Thanks Karen,

    this was also the first time I heard about rooing – it looks like something we used to do with our labrador – just pluck the loose hairs of the undercoat.
    I’ve read recently that Australian sheep farmers are injecting their sheep with a hormone (?) that causes the hairs to weaken and break – and then you just need to “peel” the fleece off.


  11. minaandme says:

    I’ve seen hand shearing and machine shearing, but I’ve never heard of rooing! I must say it looks like good fun to get your hands into all of that fluff and peel it off to reveal a fresh new sheep underneath 🙂 I wonder how much a sheep shearer makes per year. It’s not a profession we hear of very often! Thanks once again for your wonderfully educational posts!


  12. Like an animal, though not JUST dog. 😦


  13. Becky Curlett says:

    🙂 Odd odor–funny. Like dog?


  14. Thank you! I am glad you enjoy reading them. 🙂


  15. And stubborn. I remember having to get out of the car on country roads in Norway and almost literally having to push sheep off the road so we could drive through!


  16. I am glad you enjoyed the post. I have never witnessed rooing, though have watched shearing. The sheep didn’t seem bothered by the rooing, did they?


  17. Yes, I imagine it is less nerve-wracking than shearing – whether electric or hand!


  18. Oregon is lovely. I especially appreciated its vibrant fiber arts communities.


  19. I did not know that about Border Collies! I had a friend who spun and then knit a lap blanket for her father out of the fur of his favorite dog, but I always thought it had an odd odor.


  20. It was news to me too! I don’t think it works on other sheep breeds, though. 🙂


  21. How cool! Border terriers are plucked too but I don’t like the idea of dog hair! 😉


  22. I didn’t know there were different ways to go about it, its very interesting to learn about. I’m completely jealous that you lived in Oregon, I would love to move there someday, but my family decided to move to Kentucky, meh.


  23. Verónica says:

    I had never heard of “rooing” – fascinating. I guess nature knows best! Thanks for sharing. I learned something new today.


  24. Northern Narratives says:

    The rooing is very interesting. I had never heard of that method. I think the sheep would like it. I imagine it feels like a massage.


  25. thethingaboutjoan says:

    I never knew exactly how they sheared sheep — this is fascinating. The rooing is particularly interesting; I’d never heard of that. Seems like the sheep would hate it, getting its fleece “plucked” almost. What a great, informative post!


  26. Love watching sheep being sheared. We had a few sheep when I was a kid – the idea was they were supposed to keep the grass down in an empty field next door to our house. But they kept jumping the stone wall between the field and our yard and we had to chase them all around to capture them. They can be rascals! Very cute though.


  27. tgonzales says:


    I just love reading your posts; I learn so much from them. Thanks for sharing.



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