Shear Hard Work: A History of New Zealand Shearing

Hazel Riseborough

Format: Paperback
Pages: 360
Published: March 2010
Availability: Out of stock/print
Specs: 24.0cm x 18.0cm
ISBN: 9781869404536

Shear Hard Work brings to life the noise and bustle, the long days and hard work, and the extraordinary men and women of the New Zealand shearing industry. From the 1850s, when shearers were disparaged as the ‘very dregs of the colonial democracy’, to the present day when New Zealand shearers set world records and shear sheep around the globe, shearers have played a defining role in New Zealand life. Historian and former wool classer Hazel Riseborough has travelled from Merino stations in Central Otago and high-country blade sheds in Canterbury, to competitions and to the women’s world record attempts at Waikaretu and Mangapehi, to tell this great New Zealand story for the first time.

Dr Riseborough brings us the history of shearing in the words of the shearers and shedhands, wool handlers and classers, cooks and contractors who work in the sheds, compete at the shows and set the records. She chronicles key changes in the industry – from the mechanisation of shearing to the expansion of the shearing season and the shrinking of the New Zealand flock. She explores the changing culture of shearing, the role of Māori and women, and how the efforts of Ivan and Godfrey Bowen helped professionalise the industry. And she looks at those things that persisted – the challenge and competition of life in the shearing shed and the glory of being the ‘ringer’, the fastest shearer on the board.

Shear Hard Work takes us into the country’s rural heart and introduces us to some extraordinary New Zealanders who are on the job at 5 a.m. and who sweat their way to shear brilliance.


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Hazel Riseborough . . . has written in Shear Hard Work one of the most interesting and readable local histories one could wish for, thoroughly researched, well-illustrated and above all in a narrative style that will appeal to all readers. – Bryan James, Otago Daily Times

It is greatly to the author's credit that she has allowed so many people involved at all levels in the local industry to tell their story in their own words. - Bryan James, Otago Daily Times

New Zealand has ridden on the sheep's back to economic success, so why shouldn't there be a book about how it all happened? - Don Rood, Radio NZ