“Like a Different Breed:” Icelandic Horses Isolated for 60 Years

Experts are conducting genetic research on a herd of horses that has been in isolation for 60 years in Southeast Iceland, Vísir reports. The horses are from the Skaftafell region and have never set foot (or rather hoof) in a stable. Their hooves have never been trimmed, their teeth have never been floated, and they have never been dewormed. The herd is nevertheless in great health, though its members are significantly smaller than the average Icelandic horse.

“They are small, the kinship has caused them to become very small and few offspring are born even though there is a stallion in the herd; one foal was born last year, none this year,” stated Kristinn Guðnason. The eight horses have been transported to Kristinn’s farm, near Hella, to be researched by specialists. Kristinn says he has not seen horses like these before, which he calls self-bred. Researchers hope to determine whether the horses are genetically distinct from the Icelandic horse breed.

Calmer temperament than other Icelandic horses

It’s not only the horses’ appearance that differs from the average Icelandic horse but also their spirit. “It seems their temperament is such that they take very well to a new environment. They are so good-natured and not afraid of anything, they might have that superiority over our bred horses, this calm demeanour, this calm that the people of Skaftafell also have,” Kristinn says, referencing how the region’s inhabitants have taken eruptions and other natural disasters in stride.

Hooves trimmed by lava

The herd has not received the veterinary care or grooming that Icelandic horses normally enjoy. Their hooves, for example, have never been trimmed, but it has not caused any issues. “They have never been tripped but the lava saw to that. You can see the hooves on these horses, it’s as if they’ve been kempt by the best horseshoers.”

Óðinn Örn Jóhannsson, an inspector from the Food and Veterinary Association, examined the horses earlier this week and gave them his highest grade. “They are of course much smaller but their physical constitution and condition is good. They are like another animal breed or horse breed, there’s a big difference,” Óðinn stated.

Uplift on Reykjanes Peninsula

Land has started rising again on the Reykjanes peninsula, RÚV reports. The uplift has been detected north of Mt. Keilir and south of the Fagradalsfjall eruption site. The land around Fagradalsfjall fell during the eruption itself, most likely because of the magma streaming out of the chamber beneath the surface.

According to GPS measurements, land fall began to subside at the end of August and then rise again around the middle of September. The uplift is, however, minimal: only one to two centimetres at the highest points.

According to the Met Office’s models, the magma accumulation deep within the earth is the most likely cause of the uplift, although scientists also believe that it is connected to a month-long wave of seismic activity that began at the southern end of Keilir at the end of September. No dislocation has been observed on the surface as of this time, which might mean that magma is getting closer to the surface.

See Also: The Fourth Longest Eruption Since the Start of the 20th Century

Magma accumulation under volcanic systems sometimes occurs after eruptions. As such, the current uplift is not necessarily an indication that magma will move toward the surface in the near future. It’s possible that this process would instead take years or even decades, although that is difficult for scientists to predict with much accuracy.

There has been no lava flow at Fagradalsfjall since September 18. Gas emissions are still being detected at the eruption site, but only in very small quantities.


CDC Designates Iceland ‘Very High Risk’ for US Travellers

Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon tourist

The United States’ Center for Disease Control (CDC) designated Iceland Level 4, or Very High Risk, for travellers this week, due to the nation’s high COVID-19 rates. CNN reports that Level 4 is a designation reserved for nations with more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

See Also: COVID-19 in Iceland: Restrictions Tightened Again Following Sharp Increase in Infections

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Guernsey were also listed as Level 4 at the same time. Belgium, The Netherlands, Singapore, Turkey, and the US Virgin Islands are among the 70 destinations around the world that the CDC has designated as Very High Risk at this time.

The CDC advises that US residents do not to travel to Iceland at this time. Americans who do choose to travel to Iceland are advised only to do so if vaccinated—as required by Iceland as well—and to follow local regulations on mask wearing and social distancing.