One thing I learned while living in Australia and during my visit to New Zealand is that there is a bit of a (mostly friendly) rivalry between these two countries. It is understandable–they are both former British colonies that share a lot in common, but each country still has its unique history and national pride. This nationalism commonly presents itself in national rugby and cricket matches, but it is also expressed in everyday banter between countries (e.g., I heard Australia referred to as the “West Island” as a joke in NZ, among other things). New Zealand is the smaller of the two countries in terms of size and population (around 4.6 million in NZ and 24 million in Australia). As such it seemed to me that Kiwis dislike being called Aussies by mistake, just as Canadians dislike being confused for Americans. This issue of mistaken identity carries over to their similar flags, which is why New Zealand will vote whether or not to change their flag (follow-up here).
But for the love of God, do not get in the middle of the debate of which country made the awesomeness that is pavlova. Just don’t do it.
After this week, I think this rivalry might take on a new form: overgrown woolly sheep.
First off, New Zealand, the country more well-known for its sheep. On my South Island tour, I did get a chance to visit a sheep farm, which was cool. En route, my tour guide told our group of the story of Shrek the sheep. Shrek was a sheep who alluded capture for six years. He was caught in 2004, and he was huge due to lack of shearing (27 kg of wool, or almost 60 lbs). This overly woolly sheep appears unnatural, but my guess is that sheep have been selectively bred to produce more and more wool under the assumption of regular shearing. He was sheared on live TV, and Shrek became an odd cultural hero in New Zealand (and his popularity raised a lot of money for charity). In 2006, they even flew Shrek the sheep by helicopter to an iceberg, and sheared him again on the iceberg. He even had obituaries when he died in 2011.
This week, Australia found its own woolly sheep. Chris the sheep was found this week near Canberra, barely able to walk due to his huge fleece. However, it appears that Chris’s wool was bigger than Shrek’s, coming in at 40 kg (88 lbs). I don’t think Chris has any other national engagements at the moment, but we’ll see. Still, I absolutely love the picture of the kangaroos looking at Chris with a total “WTF, mate” look.
Now obviously, this post is tongue-in-cheek. I obviously don’t think New Zealand, Australia, or anyone else should try to beat this record as it obviously causes the animal harm–when a sheep can barely walk because of the wool, that is really, really bad. Both cases were accidental. Still, this news was a little bizarre for me. I just learned about Shrek a couple of months ago, and I now have seen the same thing again in Australia. Just another bizarre connection between these two rival countries. Only in Australia and New Zealand.