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Chris The World Record Breaking Woolly Sheep Has Died

Chris the Sheep, who shot to fame after being discovered roaming Australian bushland with six years worth of fleece weighing him down, has sadly died - but not before making the record books.

Little Oak Sanctuary, where Chris has been living since he was rescued in 2015, announced the Merino's passing on Tuesday.

"We are heartbroken at the loss of this sweet, wise, friendly soul," the sanctuary said on Facebook.

"Chris is known as the world record holder for having grown the heaviest fleece on record. He was so much more than this, so very much more, and we will remember him for all that he was - someone, not something - here with us, not for us."

A hiker first spotted Chris in 2015, while walking through bushland near Canberra.

Concerned he wouldn't survive the summer under all that wool, the hiker phoned the authorities and the overgrown animal was taken in by the RSPCA ACT.

Merino sheep are bred specifically for their wool and, as such, need ongoing sheering to keep them healthy.

It is believed Chris had wandered away from his flock about six years before his rescue, leaving his wool to grow to dangerous proportions.

Sarah Scott, who cared for Chris while he was at the RSPCA ACT following his rescue, said she was saddened to hear of his passing but comforted by the fact he spent his final years in good care.

"He is one animal that I will never forget working with," she told 10 daily.

"When we located him he had no fight left to give. He was so overgrown he was hardly able to move. The difference from the sheep we found to the unrecognisable healthy boy with his little flock of friends was truly incredible and is exactly why I love my job."

Ian Elkins, who has his name in the Australian Shearer Hall of Fame, was brought in to relieve Chris of his hefty coat after his rescue.

Chris the sheep needed a life-saving sheer to remove the fleece that was weighing him down. Image: AAP
Chris after he was shorn for the first time in Canberra. Image: AAP

After the life-saving sheering operation -- which Chris had to be sedated for --  the animal's fleece weighed in at 41.1 kilograms.

The Guinness Book of World Records later confirmed it as a world record, and Chris was put up for adoption.

Hundreds of applicants put their names forward to take care of the sheep, who by that time had made headlines all over the world and developed a bit of a cult following.

Champion shearer Ian Elkins poses with the world record-breaking fleece from Chris the sheep. Image: AAP

Little Oak vice president and co-founder Kate Luke said the sanctuary realised their woolly companion had died after he didn't show up for breakfast on Tuesday.

"He's been really happy and healthy recently. His death came out of the blue. His system just gave way," Luke told The Canberra Times. 

"He was coming up to 10 years, and generally sheep can live up to 12 years old."

Michelle Robertson, RSPCA ACT's CEO thanked Little Oaks for providing a safe and loving home for Chris.

"His memory will endure and we will always carry a bit of Chris in our hearts," she said.