Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Our Iceland Saga: Animals

The most common sight across all of Iceland is the sheep.

You see them everywhere - in every field...

...and by (or in!) all the roads.

I was surprised by the fact that they generally didn't appear to have been sheared recently - especially given that it was the middle of summer, Icelandic wool is highly valued and knitting is a big deal in the country.

But someone told us that there are so many sheep that they are able to satisfy the demand for wool by shearing each sheep only once, at the end of its life.

The other animal we saw frequently was the Icelandic horse. These small, hardy horses are descendants of Viking ponies from the 9th and 10th centuries, and they have a unique gait that is not found in other horse breeds.

Their bloodlines have been kept pure by not allowing other horses to be imported to Iceland, and, once exported, not allowing an Icelandic horse to return.

They are especially sure-footed over rough terrain and have double coats to protect them against cold weather.

They are friendly and beautiful! But the fences that hold them in are often electric - ask how we know! (Or just imagine my husband jerking up with a loud shout, and all the horses running away in surprise...)

Tomorrow's pictures will cover one of the startling contrasts in Icelandic scenery.


Sarah said...

Beautiful pics. I love the animals.

Summerset said...

Very cool - both yesterday's and today's post.