About Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic sheep are one of the oldest and purest breeds of sheep. They were originally brought to Iceland by early Viking settlers. No other breeds have been introduced, so the breed has remained pure for centuries. Icelandics were introduced first into Canada in the mid 1980's and into the US in the early 1990's.

Icelandics are a natural short-tailed breed belonging to Northern European group that includes Shetland, Finn, Romanov, Gotland and Spaelsau. They are a medium sized breed with the ewes weighing 130-160 lbs. and rams 180-220 lbs. Rams and ewes can be either horned or polled.

Icelandics are seasonal breeders, with the ewes coming into heat in late October and cycling through the winter or until bred. Icelandic lambs mature early with ewe lambs commonly giving birth at 11-12 months of age and ram lambs are capable of breeding at 5-6 months. Ewes have a prolificacy rate of 175-220%. Ewes easily support twins and can raise triplets unassisted.

Lambs are born small but are very vigorous. They grow fast and can reach market weight of 75-100 lbs in 5-6 months on grass and mothers milk alone. The breed has evolved over the centuries to thrive only on grass and hay. This grass based genetics lends itself to all sizes of farms and ranches. They do not have a strong flocking instinct, so when allowed, they will scatter over an entire pasture, utilizing the vegetation very uniformly. They are good browsers and will feed on native forbs and woody plant species besides grass and legumes.

In Iceland, they are raised primarily for meat which is light tasting, tender and fine grained. It is considered a gourmet meat in many restaurants that import lamb from Iceland.

Icelandic Sheep have a dual-coated fleece with a coarser outer coat (tog) and a finer undercoat (thel). The famous lopi yarn is made from Icelandic wool. A variety of products, from soft baby's clothing to floor rugs, can be made and the wool is one of the best for felting. The many natural colors are wonderful for any project. Colors range from black, white, moorit (brown) and gray to the many different combinations and shades of each color. The ease of spinning is a delight to work with for both handspinners and crafters of all type.

The pelt feels much like that of a luxurious fur. It is soft and very lustrous. They can be used as a decorative rug in your home, a soft chair cover, a throw for your bed. Uses are limited only by your imagination.

Icelandics are indeed a multipurpose breed.