WELLINGTON - Museums are vying to display the remains of New Zealand's most famous sheep, Shrek, and a church memorial in his honor has been postponed to accommodate global media interest, reports said Friday.
The merino became a celebrity in 2004, when he was found in a mountain cave six years after wandering off from his flock. He was sporting a massive fleece that made him appear three times his normal size.
The fleece was sheared for charity and weighed in at 60 pounds (27 kilograms), around six times the wool normally gathered from the average merino.
News of Shrek's death this week made the front-pages of New Zealand newspapers and led television bulletins in a nation where sheep outnumber the human population of 4.3 million by almost 10 to one.
Mindful of the sheep's immense popularity, museums are reportedly keen to put Shrek's body on public display, a move that would confirm his status as a New Zealand icon alongside 1930s racehorse Phar Lap.
The country's national museum, Te Papa in Wellington, told the New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) it was in negotiations to exhibit the famous ovine.
The Otago Museum, near Shrek's South Island farm, was also keen to round up the merino.
"As an Otago icon, we believe he will be very comfortable with us, and it will allow his 'locals' to reunite with him often," museum director of collections and research Clare Wilson told NZPA.
Shrek's owner John Perriam said he had not decided on the celebrity's ultimate destination and in the meantime he was "on ice, he's lying in state at the station (farm) here".
"I am trying to think what New Zealand would want," he said.
Perriam also told Fairfax Media that plans to hold a memorial service for the sheep had been delayed due to interest from international media wanting to travel to New Zealand for the event.
The venue for the proposed service, a chapel in Tekapo, is called the Church of the Good Shepherd.
Image: Stephen Jaquiery / via Otago Daily Times