Shoulder season is the perfect time to experience Réttir, Iceland’s farming tradition of rounding up sheep and horses.
Réttir: Iceland’s Sheep and Horse Round-Up Tradition
Iceland celebrates the arrival of autumn with the ancient farming tradition of Réttir. During this annual event sheep and horse farmers band together and set off on horseback to gather their flocks. The sheep and horses have been roaming free in the highlands and grazing on green grass and moss all summer long.
The flocks are identified by their earmarks and sorted into pens according the farmer they belong to. This entertaining process can take up to a week as the sheep population in Iceland is more than double the human population. There are over 800,000 sheep in Iceland in a country with only 365,000 citizens.
The entire farming community gets involved in the herding action including every family member, even children who love chasing the sheep around the pens. In the evening the farmers host a lively country party of live music, dancing, with plenty of good eats, drinks and of course singing traditional farming songs late into the autumn evening.
Réttir is not reserved exclusively for Icelanders. Visitors are welcome to join in and get hands-on discovering Iceland’s agricultural heritage. Tour operators such as Icelandic Farm Holidays and Laxnes Horse Farm offer réttir tours where participants ride along on horseback. Fall is a wonderful time of year to discover Iceland’s backcountry in places like Skagafjörður, the traditional heart of horse breeding in the north.
Sheep and horse herding has been around in Iceland for centuries and is a major event on the farming calendar. There are typically over 200 réttir events located throughout the country.
Visitors are always welcome so don’t be sheepish! Join in on the fun of réttir and discover rural Iceland during the colorful fall season and the onset of Northern Lights Season.
To find a rettir event near you check out bbl.is.