What are Icelandic sheep used for and their characteristics?

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Icelandic sheep primarily raised for meat and wool. The breed is originated from Iceland. Icelandic sheep meat is famous for its fine-grained meat and also for wool which is used to make coats and rugs. The breed is considered as one of the purest bloodlines of sheep in the world.

Icelandic sheep breed information

Icelandic sheep are medium-sized which are either black or brown and shades of them.

There are both horned and polled strains.

The mature Icelandic ram weighs 90 kg (200 lb) and ewes weigh 68 kg (150 lb).

The lambs are ready for market when they reach 30 kg (70 lb) in 4 to 5 months.

Icelandic lamb forages on good pasture. A mountain pasture is enough for the lambs to grow fast. On average the lamb grows 250 to 300 g/day.

The wool is double-coated the long outer coat is called tog and the fine inner coat þel.

Fleece weight is around 2 to 2.5 kg, wool is soft, lustrous and wavy.

Icelandic sheep reach sexual maturity early, and they are prolific.

Ram lambs can start breeding around 7 months old.

Ewes can start lambing at the age of 12 months. The lambing rate is 170 to 180 percent.

Icelandic sheep are seasonal breeders. The ewes come to heat around early November, lasting through April. By early October the mature rams develop a distinct odor that stimulates breeding activity in the ewes.

Icelandic sheep used for meat and wool.

Few Icelandic sheep are nervous, but most of them are friendly. They are alert and fast, not a docile breed. Be careful with the dominant ram, avoid being too close.

The Icelandic sheepskin is used as pelt skin which is used to make coats and rugs.

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Things to know

Early Viking settlers brought the sheep to Iceland. The Icelandic sheep is one of the North European Short-Tailed breeds like Finnsheep, Romanov, Shetland, Spelsau sheep, and the Swedish Landrace.

A gene has been found in the Icelandic breed that causes multiple births of triplets, quads, quints and even sextuplets if the ewe carries two copies of the gene. One copy of the gene causes a milder increase in fertility, resulting primarily in a higher rate of triplets. The Thoka gene, as it is called, is named after the first ewe known to carry the gene. It is similar to the Booroola gene in the Merino sheep.

The new sheep import to Iceland is banned as the crossbred sheep with Icelandic sheep resulted in more diseases. They are improving the breed by selective breeding within the breed.

Believed to be the oldest and purest domestic breed of sheep in the world.

Brief characteristics of Icelandic sheep

Breed NameIcelandic sheep
Other Name 
Country/Place of OriginIceland
Breed Purposeamericameat and wool
Breed Sizemedium
Weight
Ram(Male)
90 kg (200 lb)
Ewe(Female)68 kg (150 lb)
Kiddingsingle or twins or triplets
Good for Stall Fedopen grazing 
Climate Tolerancelocal conditions

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