Dream of a Scrapie-Free Iceland May Be a Reality Within 10 Years

Karólína Elísabetardóttir, sheep, scrapie research

It may be possible to eradicate scrapie in Iceland in the next ten years, RÚV reports. This hopeful news comes via a study led by sheep farmer Karólína Elísabetardóttir and a team of scrapie experts from four countries, who have isolated a genotype in the Icelandic sheep population that should protect the animals from the disease.

Scrapie, an incurable, degenerative disease that effects the nervous system of sheep and goats, has plagued the Icelandic sheep population for some time, not least in Skagafjörður, Northwest Iceland, where farmers were forced to slaughter over 2,000 animals last year when a scrapie outbreak was detected at several farms.

See Also: Scrapie Detected in Skagafjörður

Samples were taken from 2,500 sheep in Iceland and Greenland. “First, we found one sheep and then we started systematically looking in its relatives and then we found other sheep, such that now we have a trail and based on that, the outlook is really good.” This is the first such study to be conducted in Iceland in 20 years.

Karólína’s team is comprised of two doctors from a German institute that studies prion diseases experts from England and Italy, and locally, two experts from the Icelandic Agricultural Advisory Centre and a scrapie specialist from Keldur, the Institute for Experimental Pathology.

Now that the protective genotype has been identified, Karólína says the next step will be to find a ram who shares this and then organize breeding from there. “I’d even say that it might be possible, if farmers are diligent in their efforts, that this could work within ten years.” A scrapie-free Iceland, concluded Karólína, is “the dream.”

Art Exhibition Celebrates the Icelandic Sheepdog

Dog trainer and art teacher Sóldís Einarsdóttir is paying tribute to the Icelandic sheepdog in a new exhibition at the Ábæjarsafn Open Air Museum, RÚV reports.

“Above all, the Icelandic sheepdog is just a lot of fun,” Sóldís told RÚV. “They’re incredibly vivacious, they smile at you, and they always want to play.”

The exhibition consists of Sóldís’ oil paintings of sheepdogs in different environments. Her own dog modelled for several of the works.

Screenshot RÚV

“I’m a big dog person,” she continued. “We celebrated the Day of the Icelandic Sheepdog last year on July 18. And I thought that we needed some pictures of Icelandic sheepdogs.”

Screenshot RÚV

The experience has been an enjoyable one for Sóldís, who says that she had such a good time painting Icelandic sheepdogs that she plans to start painting other dog breeds and other animals as well in the future.

The exhibition will be on display at Ábæjarsafn through Monday, August 31.

Icelandic Sheepdog Celebrated Today

Icelandic Sheepdog.

 

The fourth annual Icelandic Sheepdog Day will be celebrated across Iceland today, RÚV reports. The goal of the yearly event is to increase the breed’s visibility. The Icelandic sheepdog neared extinction in the late 20th century, but was largely saved by the work of Englishman Mark Watson, who took several dogs to England in order to preserve the breed.

The Icelandic Sheepdog breed originates from the dogs brought to Iceland by the Vikings. It is a similar breed to the Norwegian Buhund, the Shetland Sheepdog, and the Welsh Corgi. In Iceland, the dogs are commonly used to herd sheep, as well as being kept as household pets, and are known for their hardiness and resourcefulness.

A presentation of the breed will take place in Reykjavík today at the Árbær Open Air Museum at 2.00pm. Stefanía Sigurðardóttir, chairperson of the Department of the Icelandic Sheepdog, will tell the story of the national breed, as well as describing its varied colouring and its characteristics.

Icelandic Sheepdog Day is celebrated on Mark Watson’s birthday, which this year marks 113 years since his birth. The Icelandic Dog Breeder Association (HRFÍ), founded partly in order to preserve the breed, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year as well. Readers can find more information on Mark Watson’s actions and life on Hundalíf Hundaskóli’s website.