Spring has come again to Vik Iceland which in turn means the days begin getting brighter and for longer, the swells of the sea get a tiny bit smaller, and the glacier begins to melt and open more for us to continue to hunt ice caves even more for you to come and explore. Our team very much looks forward to bringing you to and guiding you through incredible ice caves this next season in our 4×4 super jeeps in Vik Iceland.
That said, I’d like to step away a bit from the glacier and adventure posts you typically come for and give you a little fun education on some of our traditions here in Vik Iceland. There are two seasons the 300 people in this village of Vik look forward to… Spring is the time when new lambs are born and fall is a time the sheep come back down from grazing in the mountains and highlands.
Did you know, there are more sheep here in Iceland than double the population (which is roughly ~330,000 people as of when this Iceland adventure blog post was written). Also, sheep have been the lifeline (like kept us alive and warm) of our tiny island in the North Atlantic for over 1,000 years. Sooo… if you are an animal rights advocate, vegan, etc please do not read on if you are offended by that statement.
Allow me to explain the cycle of our sheep here in Vik Iceland…
- Around December / Christmas time the ram’s are invited in to impregnate (by always the natural way here in Iceland, lol) the lady sheep’s (aka “Ewe’s”).
- April begins our “Lambing” season which is a super exciting time here in Vik as it is a 24/7 operation of taking shifts as the Ewe’s give birth for the next several weeks.
- The lambs come out ideally with their front legs and head first. It can be a shocking birthing process if you have not seen animal births before… Example, the lambs do not come out cute and cuddly, rather they are bloody, slimy, and often lay motionless (almost dead-looking) for a few minutes. The worst case (which again why the Vik Iceland farmers are there 24/7 during this process) is when the farmer has to pick up the lamb by its legs and swing it around by it’s hind legs to jump start a breath. The Ewe cleans the lambs by licking them and also to “bond.”
- Typically the Ewe’s have 2 lambs but sometimes they have more (the country record is 7 per one Ewe). The Ewe only has 2 teats so if she has more than two it may be given away to another Ewe who had only 1 or the farmer may milk her and bottle feed the 3-4th lambs if needed.
- The lambs can be born in all sorts of colors and combinations (mainly ivory, black or brown). They also have a short little tail that is way cuter than any other sheep you’ll see anywhere else in the world (I promise)! The special name for the tail in Icelandic is called, “Dindill.”
- Sheep are typically sheered twice a year for their wool. Their wool them gets spun into yarn which folks like the Iceland Hand Knitting Association then make into items to keep us all warm (like hats, gloves, sweaters, etc).
- The sheep stay inside typically until the weather breaks in mid to late May. The farmers in Vik (Katlatrack, often helps them by towing up the trailers with our 4×4’s) then bring the sheep and lambs up and into the mountains to graze for the summer. It’s believed that the lambs / sheep will taste better if they eat this better grass that is up in the mountains / highlands.
- Note: Some farmers outside of Vik, keep their sheep down by the roads so as we said in our “Driving in Iceland” blog post, please be careful and beware of these guys running around if they get outside of the fence.
- The sheep and their lambs stay there until around the weekend of September 14th…
When the weekend of September 14th comes around each year, it as a special Icelandic name: Réttir. This is our annual sheep round-up weekend. This is one of our oldest traditions (and in my opinion one of the most fun) in Iceland. Farmers invite their family, friends, and anyone else who wants to join them in rounding up the sheep from the mountains, highlands, canyons, and valleys where they have spent time enjoying and eating through the summer. Folks head up to these areas for the weekend with the intention of getting all of the sheep back to the farm base by the weekends end. It usually involves 4×4’s in Vik (we send our guys in who are not doing ice cave tours that weekend), lots of walking, sometimes sheep herding dogs, horses, ATV’s, etc. Each evening the celebration continued further with Icelandic beers, Brennivin (aka Black Death), singing, dancing and story-telling. It’s a really good weekend
Following this epic weekend, the lambs then get sorted for slaughter. So if visiting Iceland during this fall into winter time you will see lots of lamb on the menus, overflowing at supermarkets, “Blóðmör” (black pudding) and “Lifrapylsa” (liver sausage) around. I encourage you to try it, to experience our culture at a very local level.
We hope today you have enjoyed the change of pace on our blog feature and learned a bit more about this tiny island in the North Atlantic. Next time, we will be back with more Vik adventures and exploration for you to feast your eyes on!
Your Adventure Awaits,
Guðjon + Katlatrack Team