Bowler, who has about 4,000 sheep on his farm in North Canterbury, on New Zealand’s South Island, is not sitting idly by while his business goes through hardship. He’s becoming famous for creating art with his sheep, arranging them in gigantic patterns to draw pictures or spell out words, almost like a college marching band during halftime of a football game.
But he’s not just doing it for fun. In the past, his artwork was a protest, or an exclamation: With drought crippling his fields, he’s been forced to rely on expensive feed for his sheep, which would normally be happier just grazing. So why not have a bit of fun with it, and arrange the feed in patterns so that the sheep, while eating, stay put in the designs he wants?
He went a little viral, as Radio New Zealand notes in a brief interview, for spelling out “BUGGER,” a kind of general-purpose exclamation of distaste in Commonwealth countries (it would be most similar in American English to something like “DAMMIT”). But he’s also drawn pictures of people, written the names of his grandchildren, and drawn his national symbol, a kiwi.
It’s fun, of course, but not exclusively: New Zealand has the highest density of sheep in the world, counting about ten sheep for every single person, and remains the biggest exporter of lamb of any country. Sheep are incredibly important to the country’s economy and well-being, and the droughts and other results of climate change are making it much more difficult for folks like Bowler to keep that up.