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It would be difficult to imagine a more versatile animal than the Icelandic sheep! They are triple purpose - excellent producers of meat, milk, and fiber. With an 1100 year history, Icelandics are one of the oldest and purest breeds of sheep. Sheep were brought to Iceland by the Vikings, and few sheep have been imported there since settlement ended about 900 years ago. They are cold-hardy, with strong immune systems, and vigorous lambs.
In Iceland, the sheep are raised predominately for meat and living on an island with little grain production, are valued for their ability to mature on forage alone. Like other mountain-type breeds, Icelandics have milder flavored and leaner meat. Icelandic lamb is considered "gourmet" lamb, due to its fine texture, tenderness, and delicious flavor.
The fleece produced by Icelandics is prized and unique. The fleece is dual coated, with a fine, soft undercoat called thel and a longer, coarser outer coat called tog. It is lustrous, strong, water- and wear-resistant, and sheds off the rain and weather. Tog is a true wool, and is not a kemp or guard hair. The combination of the two fibers on the sheep gives superb protection from the cold and wet. The two coats may be separated by hand or processed together. The traditional Lopi yarn is a lightly spun blend of tog and thel, and valued throughout the world. The versatility of the wool, the ease of spinning and the wide variety of colors and patterns are a delight to handspinners, and put Icelandic wool into the exotic or premium category. It is also known as one of the best fleeces for felting. The pelts are also highly sought after and are soft, flexible, as well as beautiful.
Icelandic sheep are excellent producers of milk, allowing them to raise twins and even triplets with ease. As the lambs grow older, the ewes will produce enough milk to share with us, as well! Sheep's milk produces delicious cheese with excellent yields of cheese per gallon of milk.
We find our Icelandic sheep to be calm, curious, and intelligent. They are a joy to have on our farm!