Nature & Environment Aug 28, 2019

Celebrate Réttir This Fall!

Icelandic farmers and communities come together to retrieve roaming lamb during the fall tradition.

Did you know that 800,000 sheep roam Iceland’s highlands throughout the summertime? That is more than twice the country’s population! Now that September is here, it’s time for “réttir,” one of Iceland’s oldest and most exciting traditions. 

After lambing time in May, Icelandic farmers turn their flocks loose in the highlands where they graze freely on grass, berries and herbs all summer long. This sustainable method has been used ever since settlement for the unique breed of lamb, giving it flavor and texture beyond comparison.

Come September, there’s a nationwide roundup of the freely roaming lamb. Shepherds and farmers venture out on horseback with sheepdogs, retrieving every lamb and sheep. This difficult endeavor takes many days, with entire communities turning out in support. However, the day is one of celebration and excitement for the entire community!

Having been brought back safely, the lamb and sheep are sorted and separated at circular pens with radiating sections. Réttir is one of the biggest highlights of the year where friends, family and neighbors come together, help marshal the sheep, sing traditional songs and enjoy food and drink. Then, they dance the night away at a dance known as “réttaball.” The round-up period is usually from early September to mid October across the country.

What do you think of this unique, sustainable Icelandic tradition? Be sure to let us know in the comments and stay up to date on all things Iceland on Twitter!