The Icelandic goat is a small breed, originally Norwegian. They have very long and coarse guard hairs, but under that they have high quality luxurious cashmere fiber. In recent tests the fiber qualified as cashmere in terms of the diameter, but comes in just short in the length. So technically it can't be called cashmere, but I don't care. It's absolutely lovely to the touch and I can't wait to try to spin it.
Since Iceland was very isolated for a number decades our livestock, which came with the Vikings just after 800 AC, has evolved to be uniquely Icelandic. We therefore have our distinct horses and sheep, and also have our wonderful Icelandic cattle, the very colourful poultry and the cheerful Icelandic goats. Importing foreign animals is not allowed, mostly to prevent diseases since past experiments have unfortunately brought us diseases that are still being battled today. Just a few years ago some harmless virus came from Europe, probably via unclean equipment, and was transmitted to the defenseless Icelandic horse, killing large numbers of them. So even if the laws about animal imports can sometimes be annoying and sound very strict, experience has taught us that we can not be too careful. And at least we are still free of rabies in this country.
farmers who are breeding goats in order to preserve them, mostly working without much support from government. The breeding now, is only aimed towards reducing inbreeding and trying to get the most variabilty into the heard. Hopefully that will be successful and the breeders can then concentrate on specific aims like the quality of the wool or milk or meat. I recently visited one of the farm, the largest, Háafell.
Needless to say I fell hopelessly in love with these charming and sociable creatures. They are very cuddly amimals and litterally jump up on you to get a cuddle. I have been wanting goats for the longest time and now I know why. They are just like pets. And cute too. Even the large males are adorable with their large horns.
The survival of the Icelandic goats is of course hugely dependent on economic issues. Can they be bred profitably? Well, we'll have to see, but did buy quite a bit of wool as well as some cheese and meat. I also volunteered to come and comb the goats when the time comes to do that in April. In the meantime I've been busy cleaning the wool, both washing it and removing the coarser guard hair. The resulting fiber is temptingly soft and I really, really need to get better at spinning very soon so that I can make some lovely yarn for a sweater for myself.