When you think of the Black Hills Stock Show Stock Show and Rodeo you think cattle and horses.
But sheep industry leaders used Thursday to raise awareness about the sheep business through a series of event, the first of the day being a sheep-shearing competition. "When I started shearing sheep in 1967, there were 45 million sheep in the U.S. and now we're down to less than 3 million sheep in the U.S.," said Curtis Olson, the emcee for the shearing competition.
Olson says Thursday's 'sheep day' educates the public about the business. "We're just trying to keep the industry alive and shearing is a big part of the industry," said Olson.
The sheep-shearing competition gave beginners, those in the intermediate level, and pros a chance to show off what they can do.
Although the competitors move fast, it's about more than just speed. Judges evaluate the sheep after they're sheared. "They look at how good you do it," said Larry Opstedahl, the reigning shearing champion. "That you take all the wool off at once and, of course, that you don't nick the sheep."
Pro-shearer Opstedahl says sheep shearing is in his blood, as his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father all sheared sheep. "It's a different trade and it's a hard trade to do," said Opstedahl.
And now it's something he passes down to his own son, Tyler, who is starting at the beginner level. "I hope I get better and better and keep moving up," said Tyler Opstedahl.
The sheep-shearing finals were held Thursday night. Winners get to represent America in the World Sheep-Shearing Competition.