An unusual experiment is currently being executed in Húsavík in the remote Strandir region in the West Fjords. GPS equipment with a GSM transmitter has been placed in a collar around the neck of 13 ewes, which sends daily SMS messages with their locations.
The purpose with the experiment is to investigate the interaction between sheep while grazing in the mountains in summer, mainly to see whether related sheep stick together, Morgunbladid reports.
The 13 ewes belong to three family groups. Each of their collars transmits one SMS message per day with their locations every three hours (eight locations in one message). If the ewe remains motionless for three hours the collar sends a warning signal in case the animal might be ill or dead.
Local farmers have wondered, half-jokingly, whether this technology can be used to herd sheep in the future, by ordering the sheep to return to their farms with an SMS message. Apparently sheep can be trained to respond to certain sound signals.
Farmers in Strandir herd their sheep on foot. In other parts of Iceland, farmers use horses for sheep herding.
The current experiment in Strandir is a follow-up of a Masters project undertaken by local resident Hafdís Sturlaugsdóttir in 2005 and 2006 on the family-relations of sheep.