Number of Sheep in Iceland Hits 40-Year Low Skip to content

Number of Sheep in Iceland Hits 40-Year Low

By Larissa Kyzer

Icelandic sheep
Photo: Ian Funk.

There are fewer sheep in Iceland now than there have been for 40 years, Bændablaðið reports.

At the end of 2019, there were a total of 415,949 sheep in the country and 1,471 goats. By contrast, at the end of 1980, there were 50.3% more sheep in Iceland, or 827,927. At the end of 1985, there were 709,257. By 2000, that number had dropped to 465,777 but there was a small increase by 2010 when there were 479,841 sheep and then another small jump in 2014 when there were 486,598. After that, the total stock continued to steadily drop until this year’s 40-year low.

Stocks have decreased all over Iceland and there are some regions where sheep farming has disappeared entirely. Northwest Iceland, including the West Fjords, currently maintains the most robust sheep numbers and farming in the country, with 102,175 sheep. Three regions are relatively even for the next highest number of sheep: Northeast Iceland (68,789), East Iceland (65,753), and South Iceland (64,931). The Southwest of Iceland has considerably fewer sheep: 2,216.

Meanwhile, South Iceland has the highest prevalence of cattle farmers and cattle with 31,712 animals as of 2019. The next highest number of cattle are found in Northeast Iceland (18,025), followed by Northwest Iceland (14,138), and West Iceland (12,042). East Iceland and Southwest Iceland have the lowest number of cattle: 4,653 and 1,302 respectively.

The data was taken from fall agricultural statistics; no explanation was provided for why the number of sheep in Iceland has dropped so precipitously.

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