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New Zealand mourns Shrek the sheep

By Benjamin Gottlieb for CNN
Shrek the sheep's long-awaited shearing was broadcast live on television in New Zealand.
Shrek the sheep's long-awaited shearing was broadcast live on television in New Zealand.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Shrek made headlines in 2004 when he was found in living in a cave after six years on loose
  • Shrek made number of public appearances, including a visit to New Zealand's parliament
  • Owner John Perriam said he was forced to put down Shrek because of his waning health

(CNN) -- New Zealand's national icon, Shrek the sheep, died on a South Island farm at the weekend at the age of 16, broadcaster TVNZ has reported.

The Merino made headlines across the world in 2004 when he was found living in a cave after six years on the loose. When he was finally recovered, he was weighed down by an incredible 27 kilogram-fleece.

His long-awaited shearing was then broadcast live on television.

Highly valued for their fleece, Merino sheep are said to grow some of the finest and softest wool, which is commonly used by the clothing industry.

In New Zealand, where sheep are thought to outnumber the human population of 4.3 million people by 10 to 1, it is hard to imagine how one sheep could stand out. But his incredible story made him a national celebrity.

Following his shearing, Shrek made a number of public appearances, including a visit to New Zealand's national parliament to meet then Prime Minister Helen Clark. He also became the star of a number of children's books.

2004: Shrek the sheep gets sheared
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Despite his fame, Shrek's owner insists his prized sheep came from humble origins.

"He was just an ordinary sheep, went AWOL and hid, and when he was found he became the darling of the nation," said Shrek's owner John Perriam, in an interview with TVNZ.

"He had an unbelievable personality. He loved children and he was really good with the elderly in retirement homes."

Perriam told the Agence France-Presse he was forced to put down Shrek because of his waning health.

His memorial service is slated for later this week at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo.