How the world's loneliest sheep captured the attention (and hearts) of the world

Fiona had been living in seclusion at the bottom of seaside cliff in Scotland for at least two years when she was finally rescued

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Dubbed “the loneliest sheep in the world,” an animal named Fiona was rescued last week from a cave at the bottom of a cliff in Scotland, where she had apparently wandered or fallen more than two years ago. Then, the shaggy but otherwise healthy ewe became embroiled in controversy about where to put her next. Here’s a blow-by-blow of what happened.

2021: What the bleat?

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Jillian Turner first noticed Fiona two years ago while paddling along Scotland’s Sutherland coast with her kayaking club.

“She saw us coming and was calling to us along the length of the beach following our progress until she could go no further,” Turner told the Northern Times. “She finally turned back, looking defeated.” Still, Turner assumed the creature would find its way back to where it belonged.

October 2023: Ewe two

On a recent retread of the same journey, Turner noticed that the sheep was still on the shingle beach.

“She called out on our approach and once again followed the group along the shore jumping from rock to rock, calling to us the whole way,” she said.

It was the same beast, now noticeably shaggier. “The fleece was huge and touching the ground at the back.”

She added: “The poor ewe has been on her own for at least two years — for a flock animal that has to be torture, and she seemed desperate to make contact with us on the two occasions we’ve gone past her. It is heart-rending. We honestly thought she might make her way back up that first year.”

Turner contacted the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team, but they only deal with stranded people. Similarly, a call to the Scottish SPCA only brought news that the organization knew of the sheep but didn’t believe it to be in any danger.

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Fiona the sheep
Fiona as she appeared before being rescued. Photo by Facebook

Nov. 4: Sheep’s ahoy

The Guardian newspaper reported that Fiona had been rescued by a group of five local farmers lead by Cammy Wilson, a sheep shearer from Ayrshire and a presenter on the BBC’s Landward program.

He’d seen media coverage of Fiona’s plight, and reported on Faacebook: “We’ve come up here with some heavy equipment and we’ve got this sheep up an incredibly steep slope. She’s in incredible condition. She is about a condition score of about 4.5, she is over-fat — it was some job lifting her up that slope.” (The scale goes to five. Fiona tipped the scales at 92 kilos, plus nine kilos of wool.)

“She is going to a very special place that a lot of you know very well, where you’ll be able to see her virtually every day,” Wilson added.

Nov. 5: Not so fast, ewe

A group called Animal Rising then staged a protest at the Dalscone Farm Fun, worried that this “special place” — a petting zoo — would not be in the creature’s best interests.

Animal Rising had been planning their own rescue of Fiona — whom they called Sheepy — and wanted to move her to an animal sanctuary near Glasgow. Things got so heated that police were called at one point.

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Ben Best, the farm’s manager, said on social media: “For the time being, Fiona’s whereabouts is going to be kept secret. There’s only a few of us that know where she is. It’s such a shame because she needs to come in, she needs to settle down, she needs to be safe and these people who are claiming to be in her best interests are really, really not. She’s coming to a five-star home and they’re not allowing that to happen.”

Nov. 7: Shear bliss

Fiona’s two years’ worth of wool were hand-shorn and sent to Wooldale Wool to be turned into products for sale, with the proceeds going to charity. The event was reminiscent of a New Zealand sheep named Shrek who had escaped a farm and been on the lam for six years before being caught and shorn. (That’s also why they named this one Fiona, after Shrek’s girlfriend in the film.)

Fiona the sheep
Fiona after being shorn of some nine kilos of fleece. Photo by facebook

Nov. 9: Home sheep home

Despite the protests of Animal Uprising, Fiona was ultimately moved to Dalscone, near Dumfries.

“We are of course pleased Fiona is no longer stranded, but it is completely unacceptable that she would be taken to a ‘petting zoo’ when she has already suffered for the last two years,” Animal Rising supporter Jamie Moyes told the website Food & Vegan Living.

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“We reached an agreement with the landowner for her to be rescued and taken to a safe and peaceful sanctuary, but he went behind our back to make a spectacle of her instead. Petting zoos can be stressful for any animal, but especially for one that has lived alone for the last two years and will likely now be mobbed by daily visitors owing to her celebrity status.”

Nov. 10: Breaking the baaa-nk

“Fiona’s Fund,” set up by Dalscone’s manager, has, as of this writing, collected close to 10,000 pounds for two charities. RSABI, formerly known as the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution, provides emotional, practical and financial support to people in all different roles in Scottish agriculture. And SSPCA, the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, does similar work for non-humans. All funds will be split 50/50 between the two charities.

Nov. 11: From shearing to streaming

Proving that no saga is ever truly over, Britain’s Daily Mail is reporting that a “well known streaming service” is considering making a documentary about Fiona’s rescue.

Wilson confirmed the news without naming the streamer (the Daily Mail waggishly suggested “Netflocks”) and added that he had some casting ideas if they needed someone as the voice of the sheep.

“Given Cameron Diaz voiced Princess Fiona who she’s named after, it would be fun if she played her,” he said.

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