Photo gallery: It’s shear excitement as woolly jumpers set out to prove they’re knit for purpose at Bircham
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Eat your heart out, Ewe-sain Bolt. For Squiffy the sheep can give anyone a run for their money over the hurdles.
The year-old ram is one of a flock of specially-trained woolly jumpers who'll be taking part in Norfolk's first-ever sheeplechase meeting.
They'll be under starter's orders on Monday at the annual Country Day at Bircham Windmill.
Shepherdess turned miller Elly Chalmers, who introduced sheep racing to Norfolk four years ago, has borrowed fences from Fakenham Racecourse to spice the sport up a bit.
'They jump instinctively and they seem to really enjoy it,' she said. 'It makes it a lot more interesting and exciting to watch.'
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Squiffy and his stablemates Teela, Justienne and Collette agreed as Mrs Chalmers put them through their paces yesterday.
She said racing appeared to have given Squiffy an outlet for his boisterous character.
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'He's playful, he's pushy, he's inquisitive,' she said. 'He comes out when we're doing the garden and starts playing around like a dog.
'He doesn't know what he is really. He doesn't quite fit in with a flock of sheep.'
But however much he takes to pounding the turf, Mrs Chalmers said his career would be short-lived – three, possibly four seasons at most. 'It's very much a young sheep's sport,' she added.
The going is expected to be good for Monday's races, at 11.30am and 3pm, which are part of a country crafts day running from 10am-5pm at the mill at Great Bircham.
The event also includes children's show jumping – without ponies – and a dog show at 1pm.
There will also be a country crafts display, including woodturning, beekeeping, pottery, lace making, plant and jam stalls. Visitors can enter a wildflower competition and help to judge the winners in a fairy cake bake-off.
The mill will also be open with its museum, cycle hire, bakery and tearooms. Tickets for the event are £3.50 for adults, children free.
Elsewhere, sheep racing is beginning to take off. Last year, races were held down the High Street in Moffat, Scotland.
A farm in Buckinghamshire has its own sheep racing track, while in Yorkshire sheep are raced carrying miniature knitted jockeys.
Squiffy might just be heading for stardom. His fans have set him up a Facebook page.
He'll be on EweTube next.