From Iceland — Words of Interest: The Plight of the Icelandic Goat

Words of Interest: The Plight of the Icelandic Goat

Published December 20, 2016

Words of Interest: The Plight of the Icelandic Goat


“Fara í geitarhús að leita ullar” literally means to go to the goat house to gather wool. It’s used in situations where you’re looking for something in the wrong place.

The Icelandic goat has been native to the country for over 1000 years, but they have not proliferated as much as the Icelandic sheep. In the 1960s, there were less than 80 goats left in the entire country.

Jóhanna Bergmann Þorvaldsdóttir, a former nurse, was alarmed by the dwindling population and set up a goat sanctuary, Háafell Farm, to save what little remained of the population from slaughter. Thanks to her efforts, the goat population is now up to 900 (still tiny compared to 800,000 sheep and lambs).

Wikipedia states that “the Icelandic goat is currently of little economic value,” and Jóhanna has struggled to keep the farm open. Like sheep, the Icelandic goat is capable of producing cashmere. Under its coarse coat lie soft tufts that can be spun into cashmere. Unfortunately, goat cashmere needs to be sent off overseas to be processed, and the economics don’t quite work out to make it a profitable endeavor. So technically, you could find wool in a goat house, but it would just be very rare and expensive. 

Thanks to a successful Indiegogo campaign, which saw donations come in from all corners of the world, Háafell Farm still remains open. If you would like to see an Icelandic goat in person, you can visit the farm near Reykholt.

Every Single Word in Icelandic is a pictographic exploration of the Icelandic language. I find an interesting compound word, then deconstruct and illustrate it as icons. The goal is to express how Icelandic can be deadpan literal and unexpectedly poetic at the same time.

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