Watch this audio slideshow from the farm Hólmur in southeast Iceland, where visitors can look at and pet farm animals. Many domestic animals in Iceland are of special breeds as they’ve been isolated on the island since the settlement. As they garner interest among both native and foreign tourists, a number of farms around the country have opened mini zoos.
Photos and narration by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – [email protected]
Given the uniqueness of most Icelandic farm animals (they are of special breeds as they’ve been isolated on the island since the settlement) and the interest that they garner among both native and foreign tourists, a number of farms around the country have opened mini zoos where visitors can come in close contact with their four-legged, winged, feathered and furry residents.
One of these farms is Hólmur in southeast Iceland, which also offers small-scale accommodation inside the old farmhouse. Located at the foot of the awesome Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest icecap, wild reindeer are also frequent visitors.
Primarily a sheep farm, Hólmur is particularly busy during lambing season in May, which is also when the offspring of the farm’s latest addition are born—curious little kids of the Icelandic Settlement Goat breed, which had almost gone extinct.
It is among the smallest isolated goat species in the world; there are only around 650 animals left. Whenever a species has fewer than 1,000 animals it is categorized as being at a great risk of extinction. Yet it is a vast improvement from the 165 animals in 1965.
The goat is known for the cashmere-like qualities of its wool—the Icelandic goat was among four species used to breed the Scottish Cashmere Goat.
On a recent visit to the farm, tiny rabbit babies (not a traditional Icelandic breed), geese, ducks, adorable lambs, a colorful horse, an ancient lovable dog, rams and bucks with mighty horns were all fun to look at and—in case of the attention-seeking dog—pet, but the kids just stole everyone’s heart.
As soon as they had been fed by their mother inside a fenced-off wooden stable, they were eager to check out the newcomers. Crawling between the planks was no problem and in a blink they were roaming around the sheepfold.
A purse that was lying on the floor had to be examined and trampled on. Then some fowls behind a wire demanded their attention. Next the barn was explored—best steer clear of a grumpy ewe which head-butted the dog for moving too close to her lambs.
A plank which lay up against the wall proved an excellent footbridge. And there was that dog again… what a funny creature, the kids seemed to think.
As it didn’t want to play they thought it best to fight each other and pretend that the stubs coming out of their foreheads were fully-grown horns.
More and more farmers are starting to breed goats, even though they aren’t especially obedient creatures, breaking out of even the sturdiest fences.
The most active goat farmers in Iceland are Jóhanna Thorvaldsdóttir and Thorbjörn Oddsson at Háafell in Borgarfjördur, west Iceland, whose goat herd numbers around 200 animals.
They are not just hobby goat breeders but are trying to make a living out of it, promoting the value of Icelandic goat meat and wool. They are also hoping to launch goat cheese production.
Consumers can further their efforts by fostering a goat (email [email protected] for further information) and thereby earn an invitation to visit the farm.
Meanwhile, the doors of Hólmur are open and a few Icelandic Settlement Goats are also residents of the Reykjavík Zoo and Family Park.