At the Three Counties Show, the shearing competition is in full swing. Tucked into one corner of the vast showground in Malvern, Worcestershire, is a stage into which are fitted six little booths like the starting gates on a racecourse. Each one has a number, a chalked-up name and an electrical point into which the competitors fit their shears. Six men line up and on the signal each one opens the gate, extracts a sheep, flips it on to its back, wedges its head between their thighs, bends over and starts shearing, belly first. The ewes do not seem quite as happy with this arrangement as the audience does.
Each shearer is trying to remove the fleece as quick and clean as pulling off a jersey, no nicks or cuts, and no more than three minutes per sheep (the current British record stands at 30 seconds).