Last weekend we said goodbye to our Jacob Tup when we took him up to his new home near Thurso, which was a bit sad. However, we collected three new ladies on our way home - our first Icelandic sheep.
About Icelandic Sheep
The first flock of Icelandic Sheep were brought to the UK in 1979 and another in 1990.
The breed was taken to Iceland by the Vikings in the 9th and 10th Centuries. Having not really bred with any other breeds of sheep for thousands of years, they are one of the purest breeds of sheep in the world.
They have a double layer fleece - in Icelandic, the long external coat is called tog (pronounced ‘tow’) and the fine internal coat þel (pronounced ‘thel’). When separated, they are used for different woolen products. The tow fibres are long, shiny, hardy and waterproof and thel are delicate, soft and insulating and provide great protection against the cold. They also have naturally short tails.
Tog and þel are processed together to produce lopi, a distinctive knitting wool that is only made from the fleece of Icelandic sheep
They are hill sheep, so well suited to Scottish Highland weather and poor grazing.
As we have found already, they have strange eating habits, more like goats than sheep, appearing to prefer weeds to grass. As such they are renown to be good for clearing areas that other sheep won’t.
We are told that their meat has a fine grain and a very distinct and delicious flavour.
A link to the Icelandic Sheep Breeder’s of the British Isles can be found here.