There Are Now Three Times As Many Sheep As People In New Zealand

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Wales isn't famous for much. It's a country known for producing a very unusual accent. And it's famous for sheep. Lots, and lots of sheep.

The sheep, according to new numbers released by Welsh farmers, now outnumber their human keepers by a ratio of three to one. This new revelation is certainly not helping combat the stereotype that Wales a place overpopulated by sheep.

Apparently, the number of sheep grazing in the Welsh mountains and valleys has skyrocketed in recent years. In the past seven years, there has been a two-million-sheep spike in the population, according to the June 2016 Survey of Agriculture and Horticulture.

The current estimate places the Welsh sheep population at 9.81 million. That's significantly larger than the best estimate of the human population, which is 3,026,000. About three times larger, in fact.

Believe it or not, this is not the record. In the later part of the 1990's, there were about twelve million sheep in Wales. It then dropped to eight million in 2008 but the next year, the sheep population began a slow and steady rise every year until now. And the sheep are still growing in number.

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According to John Richards, a spokesman for the meat industry, the increase reflects boosted confidence in the industries associated with sheep. Though he cautions, "There are still challenges for the lamb industry in Wales. Ensuring that everyone, including farmers and processors, get a good price for their product is vital, and means continuing to respond to changing customer demands.

"Political uncertainties around Brexit also mean that it’s difficult to predict accurately how the structure of future support payments and trade arrangements will affect livestock numbers."

Wales is definitely the board leader for sheep population in the UK, but it's not the only country in the union with a sheep boom. Sheep also outnumber people in Scotland, though not by the enormous Welsh margin.

And believe it or not, Wales is still trailing behind New Zealand. In New Zealand, sheep outnumber humans by a stunning six-to-one margin.

It's hard to imagine a cuter and more benign animal infestation than sheep. It's hard to think about it without feeling just a little bit warmer inside. And thanks to nature's bounty of wool, our cloven-hoofed friends are helping us feel warm on the outside, too. We just feel bad for the people who have to clean up after the sheep. They must pose a strange problem for city planning and municipal waste management.


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