This image is one of the wall-hangings at The Mousetrap, the backpackers' hostel we stayed at in Paihia, Bay of Islands. We didn't see any sheep thereabouts, but we understood the impetus: there are ten or so sheep for every human in NZ. Actually, for many miles south of Auckland on our first drive, I was disappointed to see cattle, and more cattle. Eventually, we reached the realm of sheep, off-white blobs scattered on green hillsides, mile after mile.
Here is how we knew to keep our eyes peeled:
Te Kuiti is the Shearing Capital of the World, or certainly of New Zealand, via a metric that need not be considered here. After all, doubters need only drive further along the main drag to see what is probably the largest sheep shearing sculpture in the world--it would be redundant if it weren't a quarter-mile down the road.
We didn't encounter sheep in a first-hand fashion until we went on the Hobbiton tour in Matamata, one segment of which involves a visit to the shearing barn of the working Alexander Farm, where an experienced hand with clippers separated a yearling sheep from his outer coat. Afterwards, we were able to feed and hold the lambs. This is a great tourist activity but a pretty ordinary experience for someone that lives on a sheep farm ...
One detail I noticed was the footwear of the shearer, who explained to us that one of the essentials for getting the job done is holding and controlling the lamb--balance and grip are keys:
The shearer was in no hurry, but the sheep seemed anxious to be somewhere else. In just a few minutes, the process was completed; here are the end results:
They also gave us a couple of hands on opportunities--not with the clippers, that would be bloody lunacy!