There is an appealing romance to the lore of the origin of the Icelandic sheep that is only matched by their
own stunning beauty. Because Icelandic sheep were brought to Iceland by the Vikings in 874-1100 AD and
isolated there on the island, the genetic makeup of Icelandic sheep is one of the purest
(meaning they have not
been altered through crossbreeding programs)
, left in the world today. The Icelandic sheep is of the North
European short tail race of sheep, related to the Finnsheep, the Romanovs, Shetland, Norwegian, Spelsau and
the Gotland sheep. Because of the harsh conditions in Iceland, the breed long ago developed very efficient
rumens. It is not necessary to make up complicated or expensive grain mixes for Icelandic sheep. In fact they
can quickly gain too much weight when exposed to management styles that rely on heavy graining. Icelandic
lambs are born fairly small (5-7 lbs.) but they are extremely vigorous and up and nursing within minutes.

Until the first importation of Icelandic sheep into North America in 1985, these hardy and triple purpose sheep
were not available outside of Iceland. We have to thank the heroic efforts of the late Stefania
Sveinbjarnardottir-Dignum (a native of Iceland) who had the tenacity and courage (as well as financial
commitment) to bring about the first exportation of Icelandic sheep into Canada. In 1992 Jager Farms
purchased their first Icelandic sheep from Stefania and brought them into the United States. Semen is now
being imported from Iceland for artificial insemination. This has vastly improved the genetic diversity and
especially the conformation of the breed here.

If you are interested in purchasing Icelandic sheep from us, you are welcome to schedule an
appointment to view our sheep. We provide much pre-sale support for new shepherds, and
on-going post-purchase sup

If you are interested in sheep from our farm, and don't live close to Michigan, don't despair. Transportation can
possibly be arranged to both the west and east coasts, and south and north.
About Icelandic Sheep
Icelandic Sheep:
the triple-purpose breed
- versatile & colorful
- especially suited for
homestead/farmstead cheese operations
- gourmet, mild taste
Some Quick Facts
SIZE: Icelandic sheep are a medium size sheep: full grown ewes in good condition (considered mature
at 3 years of age) & should weigh 132-160 lbs. Rams should weigh 180-220 lbs.
NO DOCKING: Another bonus to having Icelandic sheep is that their tails are naturally short so there is
no need to dock tails.
EARLY MATURITY: Icelandics mature early and can breed their first year if they are grown out well. Ewe
lambs breeding should weigh at minimum 80 lbs. and preferably 90-100 lbs. First time ewe lamb
moms usually do great.
EXCELLENT MOTHERS: The ewes are easy lambers (if not overfed in late pregnancy), excellent
mothers, and often twin or even have triplets (there is also a multiple birth gene called the "Thoka"
gene that produces quads - that often are reared by their own mothers who are capable of producing
ample milk to support their offspring if they have proper nutrition). We have weighed some lambs and
seen some incredible rates of growth. For instance, a single ram lamb out of an Ari daughter (Patsy
Montana) weighed 42 lbs. at 20 days of age. His rate of growth was 1 and 1/2 lbs. per day on mother's
milk. A set of triplets to another Ari daughter (Victoria) each weighed 21 lbs. at 21 days of age. They
were each gaining at the rate of .67 lbs. per day, a whopping 2 lbs. of gain per day on mother's milk. A
son of a Heli daughter weighed 25 lbs. at 18 days of age. His rate of gain was 1 lb. per day. We had
one ram lamb weigh in at 115 lbs. at 16 weeks of age.
HORNED or POLLED: Both ewes and rams come polled or horned. The emphasis on our farm is
producing quality animals with good horns. There is even a rare, primitive genetic trait that produces
4-horned Icelandic sheep, male or female (not yet available in North America).
LEADERSHEEP: In order to survive in Iceland, the Icelandic sheep developed it's own leadersheep that,
through the centuries, have proven to have a strong genetically based intelligence, developed to help
the sheep survive. There are now severallines of leadersheep in the United States and here at The
Lavender Fleece we have leadersheep lines that include  
Blesa, Ari, Prestur , Skumur, and Leifur.
Click here to learn more about how
Icelandic sheep can fit into your farm plan
Icelandic sheep are registered
with the Canadian Livestock
Records Corporation. For more
information about registering
Icelandics, please visit this
According to Ryder (1991) "domestic
sheep have a smaller heart and a
smaller eye socket than wild sheep, and
the brain is about 20% smaller. There is
a reduction in brain size of about 8%
between primitive domestic and modern
breeds of sheep." So when the claim is
made that Icelandic sheep are smart -
science is now backing it up! (from "The
Genetics of Sheep" by Piper and
Ruvinsky, page 24.)
This is an 18th century engraving of an Icelandic