Sheep shearing stardom at the Royal Welsh

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I have repeatedly passed the huge sheep shearing shed on the Royal Welsh site this week and today resolved to venture in and see what the hundreds of people are actually seeing. It turns out to be somewhat akin to a boyband.

Sheep shearing at the Royal Welsh Show 2011

Let me explain. The crowd has a good percentage of youngsters in it; there's a kind of 'young farmer' chic which is part preppy and part tweed. There are a lot of extremely risqué and totally un-ironic t-shirts proclaiming so-and-so's willingness to do x, y or even z.

Most of them are puns or jokes that would require some patient explanation on The Archers or Farming Today. Suffice to say, a Royal Welsh novice like me doesn't get them. A lot of the audience have pints of beer.

The six competitors in the sheep shearing heats have two gates behind them on the stage: one to receive a hairy sheep through, and a smaller one to hurl a bald sheep back again. When a sheep is delivered, it is grabbed and held while its wool is shaven in double quick time, until 10 are shorn. I see a winner shear all 10 sheep in six minutes and 40 seconds.

The men - for it is only men - are muscled, toned young specimens in tight vests and hair tending to be spiked with pomades or waxes. It's like watching a young Westlife I would imagine.

I can only presume that the sheep shearing winners are hailed as heroes and like all boybands worth their salt, investigate whether those t-shirts are fibs.

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