Origin and history
The settlers brought goats with them to Iceland and there is no evidence of later goat imports to the country. Records from 1703 and onwards show that goats have been kept in all parts of the country in small flocks and the total number of animals has been under 1.000 animals in most years. The highest number recorded was nearly 3.000 animals in 1930. The breed was on the verge of extinction in the late 19th century, when the number of animals had fallen below one hundred. Since 1965 a state conservation grant has been available for individually recorded goats and this has helped to maintain the population. Today the total number of animals is 650 kept in 50 small flocks.
In order to prevent a spread of diseases the country was divided into infected and non-infected zones early in the 19th century, with limited transportation of animals (sheep, goats and cattle) between isolation zones. This has led to fragmentation of the goat population into very small sub-populations.
The colour variation is considerable, most of animals are horned and as in Icelandic sheep the inheritance of horns is not sex limited. The Icelandic goat is rather small, does weighing 35-60 kg and bucks 60-80 kg. In addition to the long coarse hairs they have fine fibre of high cashmere quality.
The Farmers Association of Iceland (FAIC) is responsible for the breeding work. Compared to other Icelandic breeds of cattle, sheep and horses, which are of great economic value, much less attention has been given to the goat population, because these animals are mainly kept as pets. However, a few breeders keep goats for both milk and meat production.
Being an isolated livestock breed for over 1.100 years places the Icelandic goat in a unique position. The population, however, faces much difficulties regarding increasing inbreeding level and measures have to be taken that aim to save the breed from becoming extinct.
Diversity of the Icelandic goat breed assessed using population data