Discuss as:

New Zealand cops find hatchback full of shackled sheep

Cameron Spencer / Getty Images, file

"A lot of sheep get poached, especially during lambing season," Wellington police spokesman Guy Callahan said. "But something like this is not regular."

Four men, 10 sheep and one very small car.  It’s not the start of a joke. It’s what police in New Zealand found Wednesday when a routine patrol turned decidedly woolly.

An officer was driving along about 1 a.m. local time Wednesday in Havelock North when he noticed something odd about a 1994 Ford Laser hatchback as it labored along under the power of its 1.3-liter engine, Wellington police spokesman Guy Callahan said.

“He would have done a double take and said, ‘What the hell?’” Callahan said. “The officer basically pulled the vehicle over and discovered it was full up with men and sheep. … It’s quite a small vehicle.”

The 10 hog-tied sheep had allegedly just been stolen from a farm. Three of the men were charged with theft of stock and cruel treatment of an animal.

The men, all locals, weren’t teenagers pulling a prank. Their ages were 35, 22 and 21, Callahan said, adding that stolen sheep are generally slaughtered and eaten.

He noted that the meat is expensive, even in New Zealand, which is known for its lamb production.

 “A lot of sheep get poached, especially during lambing season,” he said. “But something like this is not regular.”

The sheep found in the car were returned unharmed, though presumably shaken, Callahan said, adding that he thought the cruelty charge was particularly appropriate, given the hog-tying and the weather.

“It’s bloody hot here because it’s in the middle of summer,” he said. “So 10 wool sheep and four men -- it’s, well … it’s hot.”

Local media reported that 11 sheep were stolen, which would make the logistics and the car ride even harder to fathom. But Callahan said he was confident the number was 10.

“Maybe one of the men was mistaken for a sheep,” he said.

This story was originally published on