The modern Icelandic sheep is a direct descendant from sheep brought to the Iceland by Viking settlers in the ninth and tenth century.
They were of the North European Short tailed type. Genetically they are the same today as they were 1100 years ago and are possibly the oldest and purest domesticated sheep in the world.
Icelandic sheep are of medium size with mature ewes weighing 130 - 160 lbs. and rams 175-200 lbs. They have fine bones, with open face and legs. Both sexes come polled and horned, but they are primarily a horned breed.
Icelandic sheep mature early and have been known to still be lambing at 12 to 14 years of age. Twins and triplets are common and quads or more can happen. Gestation is 142 - 144 days.
The Icelandic is not a docile breed. They are fast and alert on their feet, very individualistic, good browsers that seem to enjoy brush and wild grasses. They are a triple purpose breed, being used for meat, fiber, and milk.
The meat is fine grained with excellent flavor.
The fiber is a dual coat. The fine undercoat is called " thel " and the long, courser outercoat is called " tog ". Shearing weight is usually 4-5 lbs, and because of the length of the fiber they are usually shorn twice a year. Colors range from white to grey and black, and browns. Patterns include spots, mouflon, and badgeface.