Réttir Sheep Round-Up (September-October)

Every year during the months of September and October Icelanders head to the countryside and to take part in the Réttir or annual sheep round-up. This activity is one of the countries oldest cultural traditions.

At some round-up several thousand sheep are gathered © Húsavíkurstofa
At some round-up several thousand sheep are gathered © Húsavíkurstofa

Around May, after the lamb are born and a few days rest, the sheep are spread around the country. This is done to ensure that each sheep has enough space and fodder for the next month. In summer they range completely free without any human interference and are free to do whatever they please. Some sheep cover air-line distances up to 100km during this time.

In September the farmers gather with their families and other volunteers to round-up the sheep from their summer grazing in the mountains and valleys and bring them back to the farms where they will spend the winter.

The round-up involves a lot of walking and horse-riding while nowadays often quad and dirt bikes are being used. It may take several days until the sheep arrive at the main place. The main event is when the sheep and people arrive at the Réttir and each farmer sorts out his own sheep. At some of the largest round-up several thousand sheep must be sorted. The farmers can distinguish their own ship through the marks at the ears and horns. This involves traditional singing, speeches and celebrations as this is a great day to meet friends and family.

Each valley or area has their own Réttir and the dates are usually published on short notice depending on weather and other parameters. The facilities are there the whole year round and come in different shapes and material, made out of lava rocks, wood, metal or earth. they can be easily spotted by their often circular shape with a larger plot in the centre and smaller compartments around.

Hraunsrétt sheep round-up © Húsavíkurstofa
Hraunsrétt sheep round-up © Húsavíkurstofa

Check out the event calendar to see when the Réttir takes place this year.