The History of the Icelandic Sheep Breed

The history of the Icelandic Sheep is inseparable from that of the conquests and explorations of the Vikings of the 9th century.

The conquests of the Vikings left us with a legacy of more than 34 breeds of Northern European Short-Tailed Sheep, of which the best known are the Shetland, Finn, and Romanov breeds.  
No matter where they went, these sheep which were indispensable to the Vikings' survival, followed the conquerers and adapted to their new environments. So, between 874 and 930 AD, the first sheep of the old Norwegian race landed on the country of Iceland and the history of Íslenska sauðkindin, the Icelandic Sheep, began.

(réf. https://rafhladan.is/bitstream/handle/10802/9353/Rit_31_ICELANDIC_AGRICULTURE.pdf?sequence=1 )

An old race that hasn't changed for 1100 years…Truly?

My multi-line text
Sculpted out of Ice: From the 9th to the 18th Centuries

From the medieval era to the arrival of modern agriculture, the Icelandic Sheep has evolved exclusively in a system of year round grazing on pasture, and breeding selection was carried out mainly under the selective pressures of Mother Nature. With the seasons, the bad weather, as well as shortages, this sheep adapted to its hostile environment, laying the genetic bases of the race that we know today: Robust, Resilient and Adapted to convert into energy all that he can graze. 
 
Thus in more than a thousand years, three hundred and sixty-thousand sheep populated this island by immersing themselves in its environment. These sheep thus accompanied Man in his survival, indispensable for his meat, his fiber as well as for his milk. However, it is still only an archaic race: Small, puny and not very productive. (you could say Humans instead of Man, in order to include women ;), in which case i which case i would change the grammar also in the words following) 
 
We find in an edition of 1828, a scientific description of this race written by Georges-Louis Leclerc (1707-1788), account of Buffon: 
 
"That ram of Iceland weighed eighty-six and a half pounds ..." "Its wool was big, long, smooth, hard, up to eight inches in length, and amongst that long wool was another finer, less smooth, softer ... "








Forged by fire: The agrarian revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries 

In the wake of the world agrarian revolution, with a century of delay, Iceland is also sought to reform its agriculture: Their sheep, not very productive, needed to be improved. Wanting to act quickly, Iceland imported rams from Denmark of Spanish and English breeds: These attempts resulted in disastrous failures, introducing diseases and parasites not seen before in Iceland. Notably, in 1878, the import of an English ram led to the slaughter of 60% of Icelandic flocks. 
Importations in the early twentieth century caused three major epidemics resulting in further mass slaughter from 1941 to 1959 in order to eradicate the Maedi-Visna Virus and Paratuberculosis (Johne's disease). 
Iceland permanently closed its borders to importantion
( date ): It would therefore be necessary to work the race with its ancestral genetic heritage, to give birth to a modern race that would no longer be quite the same.

              
The modern Icelandic sheep twentieth century to today 
 
It was in the '50s that the genetic work of the breed accelerated. The creation of the SouthRam Test Station, the use of ultrasound and a solid genetic selection breeding program allowed the breed to become what it is today. 
In the early 1990s the technique of vaginal artificial insemination, developed by Icelandic researchers, allowed the spread of quality genetics throughout the island. 
Thanks to the hard work of the Icelanders, the Icelandic Sheep breed has become productive and profitable while maintaining its ability to survive in a hostile environment, to grow rapidly on pastures, and to offer the best lamb meat in the world.

Déjà 32 ans en Amérique du Nord!  

Importé en Amérique du Nord en 1985 par Stefania Sveinbjarnardóttir-Dignum, une Canadienne d’origine Islandaise, le mouton  Icelandic s'est alors propager à travers le continent. Nous avons eu l'honneur de la connaître personnellement. Malheureusment décédée en 2007, nous avons eu l'honneur d'accueillir sa fille et son troupeau à notre ferme après sa mort
  
 
 
 
 
 
 





Considéré comme une race de taille moyenne, les béliers atteignent 180 à 220 lbs alors qu’une brebis en bonne condition pèsera de 130 à 160 lbs. Les sujets à cornes et sans cornes sont acceptés selon les critères de race pour les deux sexes. En Islande, on cherche à créer des sujets larges, courts sur pattes, avec une excellente condition bouchère. La queue est naturellement courte, ce qui élimine le besoin de couper les queues des agneaux. Un mouton Icelandic ayant la queue coupée ne pourra être enregistré. La Société Canadienne d’Enregistrement des Animaux enregistre les moutons Icelandic des éleveurs d’Amérique du Nord.  
 
La période normale de gestation est de 142 jours, soit 5 jours de moins que la plupart des races commerciales. Les agneaux naissent petits mais vigoureux. Ils sont sur pieds et se nourrissent seuls quelques minutes seulement après la naissance. Souvent, dans le cas de jumeaux, le premier agneau né a bu avant que le deuxième agneau ne naisse. Les brebis adultes requiert que très rarement de l’aide pour l’agnelage. Cette vigueur se transmet lors de croisement avec d’autres races. 
 
L’œstrus des brebis commence en octobre et se poursuit jusqu’en mai si non accouplée. Les béliers semblent être naturellement désaisonnés. Il n’est pas rare qu’une brebis en santé soit encore productive à 10 ans. Les agneaux atteignent rapidement leur maturité sexuelle. Les béliers peuvent être productifs dès l’âge de 5 mois et on présente souvent les agnelles aux béliers avant leur première année.  
 
La prolificité est plutôt bonne avec une moyenne de 175 à 200%. Les triplets ne sont pas rares. Un gène de naissances multiples de type Booroola a été découvert chez le mouton Icelandic. Le gène Thoka a été nommé en l’honneur de la brebis chez qui on l’a découvert.

Description du Monton Icelandic en Amérique du Nord