Oct. 26, 2012 at 10:04 AM ET
Did you know Saturday, Oct. 27 is National Hug a Sheep Day? If you didn't, you're not alone.
Shepherd and blogger Sara Dunham of Kentucky started the sheep-focused holiday three years ago. It now enjoys a growing following among shepherds, farmers and yarn-shop owners across the country. People from other countries including Canada, Hungary and Italy are even joining Dunham's celebration.
Still, outside this group of sheep enthusiasts, the holiday remains fairly unknown. Dunham said she felt inspired to create the holiday based on her personal experience with the fluffy animals.
"I grew up with horses and didn't know anything about how cool sheep were," Dunham told TODAY.com. "I ended up rescuing a day-old baby lamb about 20 years ago and have been hugging and sharing my sheep ever since."
That baby lamb, Dunham's first sheep named Punkin, remained by the shepherd's side until it passed away in 2004. The first Hug a Sheep Day took place three years ago on Punkin's birthday, Oct. 30. For the next two years, the day moved from Punkin's birthday to the last Saturday of the month.
"The goal of Hug a Sheep Day is to not just celebrate how wonderful sheep (and really, all animals) are, but also to educate — children and adults," Dunham said. "Most people would never guess how interesting sheep can be — how smart they are, how they all have such different personalities, how they work together as a flock."
Dunham said hugging a sheep appeals to different people for different reasons, but the fastest-growing group of people reaching out to her about fleecy hugs are people with long, stressful work hours.
"I know I'm not the only shepherd who regularly hears, 'You are living my dream,'" Dunham said.
Here at TODAY.com we'd love to have some fluffy sheep around to hug when we need to relax, but since we're sheepless at 30 Rock, here are some photos we enjoyed of others giving sheep a good hug!
TODAY.com writer Lisa Granshaw wonders whether sheep would sense her stress level and run away for fear she would never let go of them.