Thousands flock to Great NZ Muster in Te Kūiti for Running of the Sheep

Thousands of people flocked to Te Kūiti on Saturday to observe one of the King Country's biggest events.

Famed for its Running of the Sheep, the Great NZ Muster went ahead after it was cancelled last year.

A history of sheep runs deep in the quiet town of Te Kūiti, but today, Te Kūiti was far from quiet.

The sleepy King Country streets came alive.

Thousands turned up to the Great NZ Muster, the country's premier sheep-shearing spectacle.

But it wasn't just sheep drawing in the crowds. 

Food stalls were heaving with everything from candy floss to mussel fritters.

Waitomo District Mayor John Robertson was thrilled at the turnout.

"This is our once-in-a-year signature event. We are the shearing capital of the world. Great shearers have been brought up here," Robertson told Newshub.

"We've been doing shearing for 120 years."

Te Kūiti has a long history of shearing.
Te Kūiti has a long history of shearing. Photo credit: Newshub.

Even Prime Minister Christopher Luxon showed up.

And after a minor microphone mishap, Luxon's visit, he said, couldn't have come at a more critical time.

"It's just been fantastic to be here and be amongst the people, and just to come out and say, 'hey listen we value what you do for New Zealand', because the sheep industry in New Zealand's in a tough place at the moment, and these people are working incredibly hard, you know, so we just want to come and celebrate them and say 'hey listen, we value you'," he told Newshub.

And then it was time for the main event.

All day people were buying tickets, hoping to guess just how many sheep would run.

"We've sold a thousand tickets," one Rotary volunteer told Newshub, which will go towards a number of projects.

All punters have been told is there could be anywhere between 1000-3000 sheep here - and it's anyone's guess. The winner takes $1000 home.

But it turns out there weren't quite as many as previously thought.

Upon seeing the sheep run, people changed their guesses but they were all just off the mark.

"Pretty heartbroken - but I'm inspired, I'll be back again next year," one man from the US told Newshub.

What still isn't known is who'll clean up all the mess.