There are three factors that determine the appearance
of an Icelandic sheep: the pattern factor, of which there are 6 forms,
the colour or pigment factor, of which there are two forms, and the spotting
factor, or which there are also two forms. Most sheep breeds
exhibit only one pattern, i.e. Suffolks with black head and black feet,
however, Icelandic sheep can be White, Grey Mouflon, Grey Badgerface and Mouflon, finally solid
colour. The colour forms are black and
brown (moorit). The spotted factor allows for white patches
on top of the pattern/colour combination.
sheep are well known for their fleece, which varies from 3" to 18" in length
and 50's to 70's in count. The fleece has a fine soft undercoat
called the "thel", which is about 3" long, and a coarser outer coat, which
is called the "tog". The outer coat sheds rain well and the
thel protects the sheep from the constant winds of Iceland.
The sheep naturally sheds its fleece but traditionally now is sheared,
often twice a year. Also the skin is excellent as a pelt skin,
partly due to how few hair follicles they have. The average
fleece weights 4 - 5 lbs. In the grease. The colour variation
also makes it extremely appealing.
In Iceland the sheep are bred almost exclusively
for meat, and in fact more than 80% of the income from sheep is from meat,
which is fine grained and has an excellent flavour.
In Iceland the sheep go off into the Highlands
in the spring and are rounded up in the fall, which is where the Icelandic
sheepdog is invaluable. They search out the sheep and
drive them down to large circular collecting pens, where farmers then identify
their sheep according to ear marks and sort them into small pens off the
holding pen. Icelandic sheep are now sometimes sheared twice