Breed Characteristics

Icelandic sheep are...

Image of an Icelandic ewe with horns

The oldest pure breed — Icelandic sheep have been virtually unchanged in 1,000 years of isolation on the island country of Iceland.

The largest of the short tailed race of sheep — Icelandic sheep are the largest of the short-tailed sheep that include Finn sheep, Romanov, Shetland, Spelsau and Swedish Landrace.

A commercially viable breed — In Iceland, numbers exceed 500,000 and are responsible for a quarter of the total agricultural output. This is not a "remnant" breed but a commercial production breed which can...

Hardy, healthy, disease resistant — Our flock is Ovine Progressive Pneumonia (OPP) free, foot rot free, and Scrapie free!

Energetic and aggressive grazers — Large rumens make them efficient utilizes of large amounts of forage.

Non-flocking — Though classified as a non-flocking breed, Icelandics have been traditionally herded in winter by shepherds. When free ranging in summer, the ewes will spread out and aggressively seek the best forage. The flock normally "trails," one behind the other, instead of shoulder to shoulder.

Long-lived / early-maturing — Lambs will reliably breed in their first year to lamb as yearlings. Ewes can produce to age 13 years or older.

Reliable "twinners" — Most ewes will twin in their 2nd year and thereafter. About 15% can triplet.

Icelandic sheep are known for their...

Image of a yearling horned Icelandic ram

Milking Ability — Ewes were used for dairy purposes in Iceland. Their high milk production leads to fast growing lambs and suitability for the dairy industry. Ewes can easily raise triplets.

Fast Lamb Growth — Nursing lambs on good pasture can gain 3/4 to 1 lb/day.

Quiteness — Icelandic sheep seldom "talk" and when they do, their call is a soft pleasing "Ma-Ma" sound.

Lack of a strong "sheepy" smell

Beauty — The combination of long lustrous colorful fleeces, clean dished faces and big soft alert eyes make this breed one of the most beautiful and photogenic of all sheep breeds.

In addition...

Either sex can be polled or horned — Horned rams develop a magnificent full double curl. Horned ewes develop a pleasing backward sweeping half circle.

Ewes can be: lively, bright, curious, active, shy, flighty, calm, friendly and have excellent personalities. They are not generally fence jumpers or crazy acting. They have lived side by side with their shepherds for hundreds of years. They easily become pets.

Rams can be: sweet, docile, aggressive or protective of their flock. Rams of all breeds should be considered potentially dangerous and kept away from children no matter how docile they may seem. Adult rams will breed 60 ewes. Ram lambs will breed 30 ewes. Icelandic rams are extremely fertile and easily settle their ewes. 99% of most flocks will lamb out in 20 days.