I think this may be one of my favorite topics to write about in regards to Iceland. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, we are going to talk about Icelandic sheep today (of course I promise you I did not chase down any sheep, but I may have walked beside them on some of the roads, so hopefully that keeps you reading!)
Even before we made the journey over the Atlantic to Iceland, I have always been obsessed with sheep. They just seem so gentle and kind, and really make my heart happy. Through researching a little about Iceland, I thought there may be a possibility to drive by a farm here and there, but I was in for a big surprise. Much to my delight, there were sheep over much of the beautiful country side.
On our first tour that explored the city of Reykjavik, our guide gave us the low down on all the sheep. He said that usually in the spring, the farmers will let the sheep out of the enclosed areas on the farms to go enjoy the fields and mountains on their own. The farmer has their own tag or symbol on the sheep, so that when they bring them back to the farms in autumn, they will know what specific area that they belong to.
Typically, in America, we do have a lot of farms. Even around the Philadelphia area, where I reside, the famous Lancaster region has so many farms because of the rich fertile land. Although we have many many farms here, it would be uncommon to see sheep roaming on their own. Typically, you may see a cow or goat farm, and the animals have plenty of room to enjoy it, but it is still an enclosed space.
Through our adventures in Iceland, we did see that there were some farms that had enclosed areas (a lot of these had horses as well), but most of the sheep just enjoyed themselves eating fresh grass by a mountain, or sometimes even literally on the mountain itself! The one feat I will say is truly amazing with these sheep is that even though their hooves seemed relatively small, these athletic animals were scaling the sides steep cliffs. It was very incredible, and I must say that I am truly amazed at the capabilities of sheep.
Although sheep are the stars of this post, I do have to mention Icelandic horses as well, because they are also extremely prevalent in the region. We did see many horses on our travels, but as I mentioned earlier, most of them were on farms. Although I must add that they seemed to have a lot of land to enjoy, even on farms.
We also have a lot of horses locally in the Pennsylvania area, but there were unique features to the Icelandic horses that caught my eye. They seemed a bit shorter and stouter, almost like a pony. They were also very muscular, and had absolutely gorgeous coat and hair colors.
To give you a little history on the Icelandic horses, they originally arrived in the country between 860 and 935 AD. It is thought that the animals were chosen because of their short and sturdy stature. This horse has adapted much to its surroundings, and has a thick winter coat in the colder months, and then sheds it once spring arrives. In 982 AD, the government in Iceland passed laws to prohibit any importation of other horse breeds into the country, which means that this particular breed has been keep in entirety on the island. Today, the horses are used for riding, races, tours, shows, farming, sheep herding, and a small portion of the population for slaughter.
Icelanders take great pride in protecting this horse, and they are very healthy and live a very long time. This horse breed is very friendly since they do not have any predators in their environment, and are known to be spirited and gentle. The people treasure these beautiful animals, and are regarded as a loyal friend that are loved by all.
I do want to state that it is important that if you come across horses or sheep, it is pertinent that you do not pet them, feed them, or trespass onto any private property. It is very crucial that we all respect the farmers, and the animals as well.
Sheep wool, meat, and milk are very crucial to the Icelandic economy. The wool in Iceland is quite amazing, and you will often find little shops in various towns that will sell goods made from it. Typically, a very famous clothing item in the area is the wool sweater, and from its beauty to its functional uses in the Nordic climate, you will want to pick one up yourself if you are traveling to Iceland!
The sheep and horses in Iceland are so sweet, and it warmed my soul so much to see them enjoying the beautiful land there. Let me know in the comments if you have visited them as well, and what your experience was like. I hope that you have a wonderful day, and remember to click that subscribe button!