Sheep Population Of Iceland More Than Double Human Population - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Sheep Population Of Iceland More Than Double Human Population

Photos by
Jesus Solana/Wikimedia Commons

It’s sheep round-up time again, and census numbers from farms around Iceland show numbers that will surprise no one who’s ever driven in the countryside.

Vísir reports that, according to data gathered from farms around the country, there is a grand total of about 800,000 sheep and lambs in Iceland – a country of just over 323,000 people.

The annual gathering of the sheep for slaughter – called the smölun (“herding”) – has commenced this weekend, and will be continuing for another month. This activity, usually conducted on horseback and involving copious drinking and merriment, is not reserved exclusively for Icelanders, either. In fact, some tourist companies have gotten involved in bringing tourists to take part in the smölun.

“We’ve had a good experience with it and it’s gone well,” north Iceland sheep farmer Óskar Guðmundsson told reporters about tourist participation in the smölun. “Some of these people even help out a little, but mostly they don’t spread out much, and don’t interfere with the walking herders.” Tourists who take part in the smölun usually do so on horseback.

The Grapevine has taken part in the smölun on a few occasions. If you are or will be in Iceland during the herding season, a Google search for “sheep herding in Iceland tours” will yield many results to choose from.


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