The Sheep Show


Brilliant and unmissable, The Sheep Show hilariously highlights the importance of wool and the truth about sheep farming … while debunking certain sheep-related myths.
by Rachael Rowe

Dougal the Scottish Blackface. All images: Trevor Wayborn

Trevor Wayborn paced the stage on a cold, windy, damp morning when the early crowd had begun to have second thoughts about coming to a spring agricultural show. But there was something about The Sheep Show that brightened a dull day and put a smile on everyone’s face. The laughter, the engagement – even the education – that came from the performance was an absolute tonic. And we’ve not even mentioned the sheep. By the time he had finished, even the sun was shining!

The Sheep Show travels in style

Trevor is based in North Devon with his family (and sheep) – but every year he heads out on the agricultural show circuit with The Sheep Show.
‘I’ve always been in farming. My parents were farmers, but they had to come out of it before I was old enough join them. When I left home I joined the ambulance service and became a paramedic, but I always kept sheep alongside the day job and also did contract shearing.
In 2013 I left the ambulance service – the same year I saw Richard Savory with his Sheep Show at Devon County Show. I chatted to him and thought to myself: “I’d love to be involved with that”.

Trevor Wayborn demonstrating sheep shearing. Image: Rachael Rowe

It just all came together really. I have experience in the theatre and in sheep shearing. So I worked with him to see what I could do and started doing my own shows in 2015. Richard had been running The Sheep Show for 30 years at that point, and I was in awe of the way he worked. I took over the business in 2022 and that’s where I am now. It’s a family affair too – my wife and daughter are also involved.’
No-one watching The Sheep Show can fail to notice some stand-out performers in the team – look especially for Lenny and Belinda among the native British breeds.
‘There’s not a special thing we look for in the sheep. All the breeds we use are chosen because they tell a story – but we do try to get them early in their lives. Then they get used to food. We don’t get them too tame and we just look for that little bit of something to work on.
‘I don’t want to give away too many trade secrets! Once we’re on stage we just work around them. We don’t train them – actually they train us!
‘We see what the individual sheep starts to do when it walks around after the food and we work with that. We just watch for what they do naturally, we don’t teach them, and then we reward their behaviour with food.

Lenny the Lincoln Longwool and Dougal

For example, Dougal tries to head butt me – all I’m doing is harnessing his talent.’
The sheep start to learn there is food available, and soon learn that repetitive behaviour gets rewarded. They just know they will get fed – and they love it!’
The preparation for each show goes beyond the sheep themselves, however.
‘Of course we keep an eye on their health, but we’re not looking for pristine sheep, so it’s not about bathing and combing etc. A lot of preparation is involved in performing at a show. The lorries have to be ready. We need hay, water and feed. And then we need enough food and stuff for the humans – we can be away at shows for ten-day stretches. So everything, both the sheep and humans, needs to be ready.
Sheep have a reputation for being a bit … stupid. But Trev’s keen to dispel the myth.
‘Sheep are not stupid! They are very intelligent. Look at what the team does around the back of the show – where the hard work really takes place. I’m just part of the act. The sheep know exactly what order they come up in, and when they hear their music they get up and get ready to go on the stand. It’s really cool to see the sheep adopt this behaviour in the show because they enjoy it. They even go to sleep up there.

The shearing is total ‘edutainment

‘Really! I had to wake Sam up the other day at the Great Yorkshire Show. He was asleep on the stand! The sheep just won’t go on that stand if they don’t want to.
‘And every time the sheep come up they surpass my expectations – they come up every time and do what they do.
‘They have favourite music too. They love a bit of Taylor Swift! And they like Kenny Loggins’ Footloose, too. As soon as we put Taylor Swift on they all get up and start. And when Footloose comes up they know it’s dancing time. You can see them look at each other and say: “Here we go!”
Even after so many shows, Trevor admits that it doesn’t always run perfectly smoothly: ‘I forgot to put a sheep in the hatch for shearing at one show. I was standing there waiting for it to come out and nothing was in there! Last week, one of my mates hid in the hatch, and instead of my expected sheep he jumped out at me! But that’s what happens with the travelling show community, we all look after each other.’
The show is brilliant entertainment, but it has a serious message hidden within the dancing sheep.

‘I think people learn different things, depending where we are. Some people have never even seen a live sheep – I couldn’t believe it when I did an inner city show in London. But even when we go to rural shows there are still people who don’t understand why we shear sheep, or that the fleece has such little financial worth.
‘We’re happy that people take just one or two facts from the show – perhaps why we have to shear the sheep for their welfare and for legal reasons. Wool is so good for the environment – endlessly renewable and truly biodegradable. And we all want to enjoy the countryside, which sheep help us maintain. It’s part of the make up, what the countryside is all about.’


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