Icelandic Furry Friends

Posted on Categories Animals, history, Iceland, NatureTags , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When Iceland was first settled, back in the 9th century, the only native land mammal was the Arctic Fox. They came to the island at the end of the ice age, when frozen water was connecting Iceland with North America. The settlers were the ones bringing all the other Icelandic domestic breeds. 

Due to the island’s geographic isolation, most of the breeds have remained unchanged since. The Icelandic horse is a well-known example of this and of course the farmers best friend, the Icelandic sheepdog.   

These both amiable and furry creatures first came to Iceland with the Nordic Vikings, the original settlers of Iceland. 

 

The Icelandic Sheepdog

In terrain like in Iceland, the breed developed flexibility, strength, patience, as well as independence. Additionally, with being easily trainable, the dog became an excellent herder of sheep and other domestic animals. Also, with its loud bark, they made great guard dogs and protected the lamb from predators like eagles.

Today, not only he is the farmers’ favorite little helper and a great household pet. The Icelandic sheepdog is also helping in a variety of jobs, like avalanche tracking and field searches.

 

The Icelandic Horse

Like all the other non-native mammals, Nordic settlers brought the first horses on the island. More precisely, coming from British Isles between 860 and 935 AD. Known for being easy-going and friendly, the Icelandic horse is famous for its welcoming and nurturing temperament.

They are exactly like their country, little but strong! Their muscular silhouette,  shaggy fur, and small height (140 cm) typify them. Normally, we consider most horse breeds that are shorter than 147 cm as ponies. That being said, you can ask any Icelander, the answer will be the same; they are not ponies, they are horses!

While other horse breeds may perform 3 or 4 gaits (ways of walking), this Nordic beauty has the ability to perform 5. The Tölt and the Pace are the additional gaits to the common Walk, Trot, and Gallop.

The Icelandic horses have marked a lot the history of their island. Worldwide, they are known for being loyal, pleasant and strong creatures. Doubtlessly, they are popular for their camaraderie and comfortable ride.

 

Fun fact:

During medieval times, the Icelandic sheepdog was quite popular amongst the British.   Not only for sheep farmers but also as pets for elites. William Shakespeare even mentioned the Icelandic dog in his popular play Henry V.

Icelanders are very protective of their horse breed. First of all, authorities do not allow any other horse breed to enter the country, and this since 982 AD. Nonetheless, any Icelandic horse leaving Iceland is not allowed to enter back in either! Hence, there are more Icelandic horses living outside of Iceland then in.

 

A WEEK FILLED WITH ICELANDIC TRADITIONS

Posted on Categories Iceland

This week is a busy one in Iceland. Today starts the celebrations of three quirky Icelandic holidays filled with traditions, indulgence and innocent fun.

 

BOLLUDAGUR – BUN DAY

First things first; the week starts with Bolludagur or Bun day. Yes, we have a holiday named after a delicious chocolate glazed cream puff. Bolludagur always falls on a Monday six weeks prior to Easter and the tradition came to Iceland from Norway and Denmark. It marks the start of Lent.

Lent being the time for fasting, what is better than to stuff your face with puff pastry buns filled with jam and whipped cream, topped with chocolate glaze before it all starts?

Traditionally local families will bake their own buns. Naturally, you will also find all sorts of buns in bakeries and grocery stores with a variety of fillings and toppings.

Another interesting tradition associated with Bolludagur, is that kindergarten children make wooden decorated paddles which they use to spank their parents with.  On the morning of Bolludagur, while yelling ‘Bolla, bolla, bolla’, the kids chase their parents in order to get a bun in return. A quite lovely tradition for us parents.. say no more.

 

SPRENGIDAGUR

Sprengidagur is the day before Lent and the second day of overindulgence.
On Sprengidagur it is custom to eat a Lentil Soup or stew accompanied by salted lamb meat, potatoes, and other root vegetables. This dish is called ‘Saltkjöt og Baunir’ and is indeed, very savory and filling. Although Icelanders don’t celebrate Lent by fasting anymore, the tradition of feasting Saltkjöt og Baunir on Sprengidagur is still very much alive.

 

ÖSKUDAGUR – ASH WEDNESDAY

Lastly, the Icelandic tradition associated with this day is a bit strange. Young women would try and pin small pouches filled with ash onto the boy they fancied without them noticing.

Today, however, Ash Wednesday has turned into more of a Halloween. Children will dress up in costumes and walk between stores or houses and sing hoping to receive candies in return.

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So now you know why you’ll see costumed children run between stores singing.  Also, as most of us will be experiencing a mild case of food coma, we may seem a bit dazed. Join us in celebrating these traditions!

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