Fewest Sheep in Iceland Since 1861 Skip to content

Fewest Sheep in Iceland Since 1861

By Gréta Sigríður Einarsdóttir

icelandic sheep

The number of sheep in Iceland continues to decrease, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture. In the winter of 2020, there were 400,724 sheep in Iceland, compared to 415,847 in 2019: a decrease of 15,123 sheep or 3.63%. There haven’t been fewer sheep in Iceland in 160 years, since 1861 when a sheep scab pandemic led to a drop in sheep numbers to 327,000. Bændablaðið reported first.

The peak of sheep numbers in Iceland so far was reached in 1977 when 896,000 sheep were fed through the winter. Ólafur R. Dýrmundsson has compiled data on the number of sheep in Iceland reaching back to 1703. In the past, drops in sheep numbers have occurred regularly due to disease, volcanic eruptions, or cold temperatures but this time, the development has been more gradual and based on economic shifts. In recent years, lamb consumption has been decreasing while poultry and pork consumption has increased.

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