5 Fascinating Facts about Iceland's Animals

Iceland is a wonderland of extremes and as such, Iceland's animals have to be very adaptable to survive. It is a country that must be experienced from the boiling hot mud pools to the frozen massive glaciers, from deafening waterfalls to silent and eerie lava fields.  I found the whole country fascinating including these fascinating facts about some of Iceland's animals.


Whenever I visit a new place, I like to get out and explore it on foot, to orientate myself and meet the local people.  Reykjavik was no exception except many of the locals I initially met were geese.  They seemed to be just wandering around on grass verges at the side of busy roads, so I commented on this to one of the locals, who wasn’t a goose, who said that they were quite common at this time of year, late August, because the shooting season has started and there is a law banning anyone shooting the geese within the city boundary.

Geese in Reykjavik Photo by Roman Gerasymenko

Is it possible that these geese know they are safe within the city boundary? And how do they even know where the city boundary starts and ends?  Two questions that still require answers. So please let me know if you have any.

Icelandic Horses

The beautiful, strong and gentle Icelandic horses are so pure in their breeding that they are free from many diseases that plague European horses.  The Icelandic horse is probably most famous for its extra gait, the tolt, a smooth 4 beat gait which makes it comfortable for the rider and also why they were so popular as modes of transport.  Originally they were the only method of transport on Iceland and even with the introduction of roads, the horse still remains a popular method of transport, especially for rounding up the sheep in the autumn.

Icelandic Horses
However, there is something else about the Icelandic Horse that sets it apart from others.  They are not allowed back into Iceland after they have left. Therefore, if a horse is taken abroad to compete, it has to be sold and left in that country, it cannot be brought back and all the tackle, has to be thoroughly disinfected before coming back into Iceland too.  There are many national horse competitions in Iceland  but many competitors will not take their horses abroad.

They tell me they are very intelligent or at least that’s what this one told me.

Polar Bears

There are no polar bears in Iceland!  Occasionally over the years, one or two have been known to drift over on an iceberg from Greenland and land somewhere on the northern shores of Iceland.  There have only been a few hundred spotted in Iceland since records began according to Iceland’s Institute of Natural History.  Unfortunately when they do appear in Iceland, the bear is normally shot as they wander close to farms and are a danger to people and livestock who are not equipped to deal with these gorgeous but dangerous creatures. In the last 10 years, there were 2 in 2008, 1 in 2010 and 1 in 2016. 
Polar Bear - Photo by Icelandic Coastguard

Great Auks & Gannets

The volcanic island of Eldey, just off the coast of Reykjanes, is home to Iceland’s largest gannet colony and the sixth largest in the world.  It is best viewed from a boat but it is also clearly visible from the Reykjanes Peninsula.  As well as the gannets, Eldey is also home to many Auks and was also home to the last ever pair of Great Auks that became extinct in 1844.

Island of Eldey

The Monster of Kleifarvatn

Scotland isn’t the only northern European country to claim it has a monster in its waters.  Iceland has its own equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster in the form of a black, snake-like monster about the size of a whale seemingly.  It is said to live in one of Iceland’s deepest lakes, Kleifarvatn near the colourful fumeroles and hot springs of Seltun. The lake is quite isolated making it difficult to verify these rumours but the barren volcanic surrounding of the lake certainly adds to the eerie atmosphere.

The Monster of Kleifarvatn

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