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Icelandic sheep, (27)

Icelandic sheep, more pictures

The Icelandic sheep belong to the North European short tailed sheep and have been bred in Iceland since the settlement of the country in the 8th and 9th century. There are several records of attempted imports of foreign sheep breeds trough the centuries. However,  the genetic influence from foreign breeds is minimal as the imported animals often carried serious diseases and were subsequently eradicated.  The breed varies greatly in coat colour and the shape and size of horns. Both rams and ewes can be horned or polled. The wool is double coated and basic colours are white, often with tan fibers, grey, black and brown. The underwool has fibre diameter of 22 - 28 microns and diameter of the outer hair 55 - 65 microns on average. The greasy fleece weight is around 3 kg. The wool is used mainly for hand knitting and machine knitting yarns and pelts are used for double face sheepskins. The main source of income is from meat production and breeding work has aimed at improved conformation and carcass characteristics. The live weight of rams is 90-100 kg and of ewes 65-70 kg. Mean carcass weight of lambs is 15 kg when slaughtered at the age of 4-5 months.  The mean litter size is around 1.8 lambs at birth, with a high frequency of twin births (> 70 %) while triple births are relatively uncommon. A special fertility gene (Thoka gene) has been found in the breed. A single copy of the Thoka gene increased litter size by 0,6 lambs per lambing on average. The present population size is around 470,000 breeding ewes and decreasing (year 2000).

See also Breeds of Livestock, sheep breeds

Local name: Sauðfé
Jon Vidar Jonmundsson BŠndasamt÷k ═slands, BŠndah÷llinni, IS 107 ReykjavÝk and Emma Eythorsdottir, Agricultural University of Iceland, Keldnaholt, IS-112, Reykjavik.
Photographs: Emma Eythorsdottir






List of North European sheep breeds:
Ålands sheep
Cheviot sheep
Dala sheep
Dala fur sheep
Danish landrace sheep
Estonian Ruhnu sheep
Faeroe sheep
Fine wool sheep Finnish Grey landrace

Forest sheep
Fuglestad sheep
Gotland sheep
Greenland sheep Grey Troender sheep
Gute sheep
Icelandic leader sheep
-Icelandic sheep
Latvian darkheaded sheep
Lithuanian coarse wool sheep
Norwegian feral sheep  

Norwegian Old Spael sheep
Norwegian Spael sheep
Romanov sheep
Roslags sheep Russian Viena sheep
Rya sheep
Rygja sheep
Steigar sheep
Texel sheep
White faced Marsh


Created by ThEP and EE Edited by Emma Eythorsdottir for the North SheD group.
Agricultural Research Institute of Iceland.