Sheep from South Iceland Crosses Highlands Skip to content

Sheep from South Iceland Crosses Highlands

A ewe belonging to farmers in Fljótshlíd, south Iceland, which was released to the mountains in the spring, was recovered during sheep herding and roundup by Stafnsrétt in Svartárdalur in northwest Iceland on Saturday last week.


Sheep in highland pastures. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

The ewe’s hooves were torn and raw after crossing the highlands and breaking through several fences. When it was released it had one lamb, now it was alone, Fréttabladid reports.

“It’s a little strange to get a sheep here which had previously never left its home territory,” said Sigurjón Stefánsson, farmer at Steiná in Svartárdalur in the county Austur-Húnavatnssýsla.

He spotted the stray ewe during the 200th annual roundup in Stafnsrétt on September 10. “It could have arrived from either side of Hofsjökull glacier northwards to the Eyvindarstadaheidi heath where it was herded,” Stefánsson speculated.

“It would have had to cross a few glacial rivers unless it walked across Hofsjökull,” he added. “It is impossible to say which path it took.”

“Maybe it was escaping sand drift. It may not have known the highland pastures where it usually spends the summers,” Stefánsson suggested.

This isn’t the first time that he ends up with stray sheep in his herd. “I once found sheep from Eyrarbakki in the south. There wasn’t much left of their hooves.”

The owner of the far-traveled ewe in Fljótshlíd, Kristinn Hákonarson at Eyvindarmúli, was surprised when he learned where it ended up. “The six-year-old sheep was marked at my farm. It is amazing that it walked all this way.”

“It has crossed many sheep disease defense lines. It is quite the criminal,” Hákonarson added of his ewe, which was slaughtered on Monday.

Sigurdur Eythórsson, managing director of the National Association of Sheep Farmers, said members are concerned about sheep crossing defense lines—sheep roam the mountains in their respective home regions in the summer but are barred from mixing with herds from other regions to prevent diseases from spreading.

“Not that long ago the number of defense areas in sheep farming was reduced. We thought that an effort would be made to repair fences but their maintenance is lacking in some places,” Eythórsson stated.

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) is responsible for the condition of the fences but funds for the project are lacking.

Click here to read more about sheep roundup.


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