Kate Middleton watching a sheep being shorn and getting some big ideas
Image: Getty

Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, is out and about doing what a royal person does best: rolling up their sleeves and getting in the muck to cosplay at being a regular. Today she’s in Cumbria, shearing a sheep! At a farm! Okay, girl!

Here’s some footage of ye olde Duchess shearing a sheep—Wellies on, hair back in a sensible ponytail, wearing a casual sweater. I’m not a farmer and would never profess to be, but it seems that her form is fine. The sheep is sedate, at peace, calm. Immediately this appears to be normal, but upon further examination, I’m worried. The sheep in question is resigned to its fate, suffering—or just living— in silence.

This sheep should be screaming and it is not.

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The sheep is strangely at peace, much like this sheep in this video from Guinness World Records, which shows a man shearing a sheep very quickly.

Surely there is some sort of understanding between shearer and the shorn, an innate trust and sense of peace that allows the animal to submit itself to these ministrations. In the case of the world record sheep, it’s clear that both parties know what’s going on and are acutely aware of the social contract: the human must shear quickly and the sheep must lie there and be shorn.

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While my experience personally shearing sheep is non-existent, I have visited the Dutchess County Fair in the beautiful Hudson Valley and watched sheep being shorn from a comfortable distance. The sheep in question stand on a metal platform with their muzzles in a little lasso. Their bodies are ready to be groomed for show by their handlers and they are occasionally shorn whilst in this arrangement. Sometimes—more often than I’d like—they scream like a human, a terrible sound that rings out over the 4H pens up near the good milkshake stand, interrupting the simple pleasures of a lemonade in the late August sun.

The Duchess of Cambridge lacks the experience required to properly sedate a sheep. Why isn’t her sheep screaming? What does it know? What can we learn?