An Icelandic ‘Ram Registry,’ published yearly, has acted as a matchmaking service for Icelandic sheep for 20 years, Vísir reports. One of its tasks is to help pass on the genes of so called ‘leader sheep,’ unique to the Icelandic breed.
Since the settlement of Iceland, the Icelandic sheep breed has produced a special kind of ram known as a ‘leader sheep’ (forystufé). Leader sheep are rams who have inherent leadership qualities: they walk ahead of the herd, and are accepted by their fellow sheep as the head of the group. They usually have a sixth sense for the weather, and are known to anticipate storms by seeking shelter, prompting the rest of the herd to follow.
Leader sheep are not only useful to Icelandic farmers, they are unique to the Icelandic breed. To ensure their continuation, there are breeding centres located in South and West Iceland which house two leader sheep at the service of farmers.
If breeding centres are not an option, the Ram Registry (Hrútaskrá) offers farmers more choice and convenience. The publication is released annually in Iceland and is very popular with farmers around the country during breeding season. The registry lists prize rams around the country, including a photograph and description of each. One ram’s description reads: “Nikulás is tall and dignified and holds his head high and keeps an eye on everything that happens around him.”
Guðmundur Jóhannsson has been the registry’s editor since its inception 20 years ago. “Yes, this is by far the most popular newspaper among farmers every year leading up to Christmas,” he says.
Farmers choose a ram from the registry for the purpose of inseminating their ewes. They simply order the necessary materials, which are then delivered to the farm.
The latest issue features 45 rams. Guðmundur expects 30,000 orders to be made between December 1st and 21st. The price of a single order is a mere ISK 1000 (USD 10/EUR 8), though discounts apply to orders in bulk.