Ewe have got to be kidding – a haircut reveals Horace the Hermit to be female

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HORACE the Hermit Sheep has had his day as an outlaw and has been relaunched, after a haircut, as Horietta the celebrity ewe.

As recently reported in the Yorkshire Post, former East Yorkshire shepherds Francine and Stuart Murray landed the job of capturing “Horace”, who was becoming dangerously overloaded with wool after six years of evading round-ups for shearing at the Big Ben Station in the Canterbury region of New Zealand.

They have now completed the mission and discovered him to be a her.

Now, renamed, she is back at the Murrays’ ranch at Sheffield, near Christchurch, adjusting to captivity in preparation for a round of celebrity appearances to raise money for the local mountain rescue services.

After an initial belly cut, the Suffolk-Merino cross yielded 13.9 kilos of fleece with a staple of about 300 mm, which will be auctioned for the cause.

Both wool and sheep were “in pretty good order, considering”, according to Francine.

The sheep was blade-shorn at a local fair by Noel Handley, a former New Zealand shearing champion, with Horace Wimp by the Electric Light Orchestra playing over loudspeakers.

Francine said: “She was walking funny after carrying that lot around. Being light must have seemed strange to her. She is now in our paddock, getting friendly with some calves and pet lambs, and has not shown any sign of wanting to go any further.

“I think we can avoid her ending up on a dinner plate. She is already being booked for visits. Then we will see if she will mate.”

Working dog fans might be interested to know that Francine has just published a history of the Malvern Collie Club of New Zealand, available soon via www.allsheepdogs.com.

She was Francine Harrison before she married Stuart Murray, a former Bridlington fireman, in 2002 and the family emigrated in 2004. Old friends can reach her by email at francineamurray@hotmail.com.