Rite of Spring: Sheep Shearing Day

As winter’s chill gives way to spring, an annual ritual takes place across the land in flocks of sheep both large and small. It’s sheep shearing time! Freshly shorn fleece falls off ewes, rams, wethers, and lambs to the hum of the shearer’s clippers. The Museum of Appalachia, in Clinton, Tennessee, celebrates this magical rite of spring every year with Sheep Shearing Day.

sheep shearing

Spring brings more than just lambs. For many flocks, it is the beginning of shearing season.

The museum keeps a small flock of Hampshire sheep, a breed primarily raised for meat production. Shearing the sheep began out of necessity, but the museum soon discovered it presented an opportunity to educate the public about the traditional methods pioneers used for shearing sheep. In addition to shearing, activities include cleaning, carding, spinning, and weaving the wool into cloth. Of course, the sheep remain the most popular draw. “Everyone loves to watch the sheep being freshly sheared,” explains Jan Marshall, office manager and caretaker of the museum’s animals. Visitors enjoy “being able to crank the shears (affiliate link) or touch the soft, lanolin-drenched wool.”

sheep shearing

Carmen Bonnell demonstrates spinning on a spindle.

For many visitors, this event provides an opportunity to touch animals and explore heritage crafts that they might not otherwise have access to.

The next Sheep Shearing Day at the Museum of Appalachia will be April 11 and 12, 2019. For more information, visit www.museumofappalachia.org.


This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Spin Off Learn more about shearing in our blog post, “Crew Cut: Alpaca Shearing.”

Featured Image: The Museum of Appalachia offers demonstrations of traditional shearing methods used by pioneers. Photos courtesy of the Museum of Appalachia

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