Fact check: Partly false story about Shrek, a very woolly sheep from New Zealand

·4 min read

The claim: A sheep hid in the mountains for six years and grew 60 pounds of wool, which protected him from wolves

A post on Facebook claims one sheep’s story makes him stand out from the herd.

“This sheep escaped a farm and spent 6 years in the mountains, during which time he grew 60 pounds of wool," reads text in the July 28 post, which shows a photo of large sheep standing next to a man. "Wolves tried to eat him, but their teeth could not penetrate the floof. You don't have to turn hard to survive the wolves, just be really, really soft and fluffy.”

The post, originally shared on Twitter in March, has amassed nearly 4,000 reactions and about 1,200 shares on Facebook. USA TODAY reached out to the person who shared the Facebook post for comment.

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The sheep is real – his name was Shrek and he lived in New Zealand. But the post gets some facts wrong about his storied life.

Shrek’s story

When Shrek, a Merino sheep, went missing from a New Zealand farm in 1998, he was presumed to be dead. But six years later, he was found hiding in caves on South Island.

"We didn't know he was there," John Perriam, Shrek’s owner, told BBC in 2004. "He looked like some biblical creature."

Perriam is the man in the photo shared on Facebook, according to New Zealand’s Otago Daily Times.

In evading capture, the sheep also eluded shearing. When he was found, Shrek had 60 pounds of wool – enough to make 20 large men’s suits, according to the BBC.

Shrek went on to become the subject of several children’s books. In May 2004, he met with then-New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

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Shrek was euthanized in 2011 at age 17 because of worsening health, Perriam told news outlets at the time.

"He was just an ordinary sheep, went AWOL and hid, and when he was found, he became the darling of the nation," Perriam told local broadcaster TVNZ in 2011.

No wolves in New Zealand

While parts of Shrek’s story as told in the Facebook post are accurate, some details don’t add up.

The post says wolves tried to eat Shrek while he was missing. There's just one problem with that: There are no wolves in New Zealand.

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According to the country’s Department of Conservation, the only mammals native to New Zealand are bats and marine mammals, like dolphins, seals and whales.

The country "had no land-based mammalian predators before people introduced them," according to the conservation group Kiwis for Kiwi. Mammalian predators include cats, dogs, ferrets, wild pigs, possums and rodents, according to the group's website.

Our rating: Partly false

Based on our research, we rated PARTLY FALSE the claim that a sheep hid in the mountains for six years and grew 60 pounds of wool, which protected him from wolves. It’s true that a New Zealand sheep named Shrek grew 60 pounds of wool after escaping his farm and hiding in caves for six years. But there are no wolves in New Zealand.

Our fact-check sources:

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Story of New Zealand's Shrek the sheep mistold online

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