The Icelandic sheep originated 1100 years ago, making it one of the world’s oldest breeds. They have survived in isolation under very difficult farming conditions in Iceland, and, like the Black Welsh Mountain sheep, have adapted to rugged and varied terrains. Since Iceland is not a country that produces grain due to the harsh climate, they have survived for thousands of years on pasture and hay. They are, therefore, very adaptable to North American farms where they can graze on grass-based pastures.

Icelandic Sheep are larger than Black Welsh Mountain sheep. Ewes average between 130-160 pounds, while rams average between 180-220 pounds. The breed comes in a variety of colors and patterns ranging from white, tan, milk chocolate, silver, dark chocolate, to black. They also have a spotting gene that could add patterns to any combination of colors, making each one unique and interesting.

Icelandics produce a premium fleece which is dual coated. They have a fine , soft undercoat and a longer, coarser outer coat which is thick, strong, and water resistant. The combination offers the sheep good protection against the cold and wet, while at the same time producing a lustrous, dense fleece that is ideally suited for hand spinning or felting. Both coats can be separated for different projects or can be spun together. The outer coat has a wavy texture similar to mohair and is superb in worsted spinning.

Icelandic sheep are a triple purpose breed well suited to small, sustainable farming. As with other mountain breeds, their meat is milder and leaner than that of those raised in the lowlands. The ewes often produce twins and even triplets which lends itself to good milk production. Sheep yogurt, soap, and cheese are gaining in popularity in the niche market. As the trend towards organic, grass fed meats and dairy products continues, the breed will continue to become an integral part of the American farming scene.

Icelandic Sheep Ewe

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