Life

The Unique Relationship Between Sheep and Humans in the Remote Faroe Islands

  The 17 inhabited islands of the Faroe Islands have a population of less than 50,000, but they are home to 70,000 sheep and 4 million birds.
  Here, animals are the main residents, and humans are only supporting players.
Island Sheep Ignored by Street View Maps Makes a Difference

  Too many sheep, too few humans. In the Faroe Islands, the status of sheep is paramount.
  The Faroese’s preference for sheep began in the era of Celtic rule. The archipelago was once named “Sheep Island”. Later, sheep were used on coins and postage stamps. On the current island emblem, the pattern still retains a head White ram. Every sheep on the island has its own identity mark. The Faroese do not strictly manage each sheep. Their grazing method is very special. Usually, the sheep are transported to an outlying island by boat, so that the sheep can graze freely and reproduce freely. Then, go every five years to see how the sheep are doing.
  As the “honorary island owner”, the sheep also has a mission. The Faroe Islands have a temperate maritime climate with nearly 300 rainy days per year. In order to cope with the perennial wind and rain, the Faroese will spread a layer of soil on the roof, and then plant grass to keep warm and control the flow of rainwater. From a distance, the turf roof blends with the surrounding lawn, and the exterior walls of the house are colorful, dotted in a greenery, which is very beautiful. Sod roofs are beautiful, but they also require regular weed trimming. Rather than saying that the Faroese entrusted the sheep with this task, it is better to say that the sheep volunteered, and they would often stand on the roof to eat grass to fill their stomachs.
  Interestingly, in the age of the Internet, sheep have also played a major role in the tourism industry of the Faroe Islands.
  Due to the remote location and sparse population of the Faroe Islands, there has been no complete street view map of the islands (a kind of real map) on the Internet. Residents have repeatedly made suggestions to the Tourism Bureau for this matter. But framing the map is not an easy task. The Faroe Islands are full of cliffs and waterfalls, and the land is sparsely populated. Many places have never been seen by people. Although the local tourism bureau also wants to facilitate this matter, it is difficult to do it with the strength of a few staff members. The residents had no choice but to spontaneously form a small team to find a way to show their hometown to the world.
  One day, Anderson, a member of the team, looked out the window, and suddenly his eyes were attracted by a group of sheep grazing. He found that sheep do not stay in the same place to graze for a long time, but keep looking for new grass. Sheep living in the wild are also good rock climbers. They can easily climb trees and walk freely on cliffs. Anderson thought about it, why not let the sheep take the street view? Anderson’s idea was recognized by others. Then, everyone selected 5 docile sheep, tied the camera and recorder to the sheep, let the sheep move freely, and the camera lens followed the sheep’s footsteps.
  The photos “taken” by the five sheep did not disappoint everyone, and many unknown corners of the island were captured. Combining these photos together creates a panoramic map of the island. The team named the feat of the sheep SheepView360, and launched an Internet project based on this, and published the photos on the platform. All of a sudden, the Faroe Islands and 5 sheep became Internet celebrities. These photos also caught the attention of Google Maps, who sent a professional Street View team to the Faroe Islands to assist Anderson and the sheep with the rest of the framing work.
  On the other hand, because there are many sheep in the Faroe Islands, animal husbandry is an important local industry. Grilled lamb chops, air-dried mutton and mutton balls are all traditional delicacies, and the local area holds an annual air-dried mutton competition. Clothing made of wool is also an integral part of Faroese traditional culture. Whenever a wedding or a ball is held, the Faroese will take the family as a unit in advance and divide the labor into weaving, dyeing and embroidery with wool. Their handmade wool sweaters are often brightly colored and have distinct Scandinavian patterns, and today several Faroese labels have emerged on the global fashion scene.
A puffin with 60 fish in its mouth is recommended to use binoculars for bird watching

  More than sheep, there are birds. There are hundreds of kilometers between the islands of Faro, but it is such an undisturbed environment that makes the island a paradise for birds. Every summer, millions of birds come to the Faroe Islands to breed. According to the latest bird watching manual released by the Faroe Islands, as of now, a total of 305 bird species on the island have been recorded.
  Westermann Bird Cliff is the best place for bird watching in the Faroe Islands. There are many bird populations here, including puffins, guillemots, tube-nosed sea swallows (a species of petrel), kittiwakes and more. Puffins are the most common and most popular among tourists. People who see it for the first time are often misled by its round body and orange mouth, thinking it is a penguin. Arctic puffins are found in the Faroe Islands. Their orange beaks and eyeliners are seasonal and grow in summer for courtship.

  Speaking of courtship, arctic puffins are the representatives of the famous “model couple” among birds. They become sexually mature at about four or five years old, and after courting with their mouths and eyeliner, they “only love one person in their lives”. Male and female puffins give each other a light peck to signify the completion of the wedding. Afterwards, the couple flew to the Faroe Islands in pairs every year to find a lawn on the edge of a cliff and build a nest together to raise the chicks.
  Interestingly, travelers and photographers often like to capture pictures of puffins preying on food—especially the classic scene of puffins opening their mouths wide and picking up small fish. The puffin’s mouth has a unique structure, and it can hold as few as 10 and as many as 60 fish at a time. The sharp spines on its upper jaw make it difficult for the prey to fall off. After holding the small fish firmly, it uses the grooved tongue to stretch the fish into the throat to make more room for more fish.
  Bird watching in the Faroe Islands is a treat and all it takes is a pair of binoculars. The binoculars are used to keep a proper distance from the birds. If birds fly over your head or make calls, it means that you are too close to their nests, which will stress the parents and mothers. There is no watchtower specially built for bird watching in the Faroe Islands, so bird watching is mostly done by looking for it on foot, or climbing up the hills that can be overlooked.
  In order to better protect the birds, islanders are not even allowed to keep cats as pets on some islands, because cats are a threat to many seabirds. On Stromo Island in the archipelago, there is also a famous “birdman” Tróndur Patursson living. An artist and explorer, he created stained glass birds and ‘bluebirds’ that can be seen all over the Faroe Islands.
Treating whaling as a traditional custom does not allow outsiders to watch

  In addition to animal husbandry, fishing is also a pillar industry in the Faroe Islands, which has an important impact on the economy and life on the island. There are many kinds of fish for export, such as cod, haddock, herring, mackerel, cobia and shrimp. But things always have two sides, and there is a cruel custom here-whaling.

Picture 1 on the left page, the sign standing on the side of the grass slope reads: Love birds, please only walk on the designated road and keep your voice down. Picture 2 and the right page show Arctic puffins, and picture 3 shows a family of birds nesting on a cliff.

  Every year, the islanders hold a large-scale whale hunting activity. The holding time is not fixed, usually from June to October, depending on sea conditions and weather conditions. This activity has a long history. According to archaeological findings, the history of whaling in the Faroe Islands can be traced back to the Viking Age, when a group of Norwegians came to settle in the Faroe Islands. Archaeologists have found archaeological evidence of whaling in the form of pilot whale bones among their remains. And in a sheep letter in 1298, the earliest law regulating whaling on the island appeared. In 1584, locals began to record the killing of whales, and the practice continues to this day.
  Ancient islanders used harpoons and spears as whaling tools. The harpoons are equipped with barbs. After locking on to the target whales, the fishermen quickly throw the harpoons at the whales, inserting them one by one. Seeing that the whale loses the strength to resist, a spear and a sword are used to pierce the key parts of the whale to make it die completely. Because this way of hunting is too cruel, in 1985, the Faroe Islands banned fishermen from using these two tools in hunting, and according to the 2013 “Whaling Law”, it is stipulated that whales must wait for them to come ashore or get stuck on the seabed before they can be legally hunted. . However, various regulations did not stop the Faroese from whaling. The Faroese came up with other methods-they first dragged the whale ashore and stranded it, and then used the whale knife and spinal cutter to drain the blood of the whale, and expressed that , this is done to ease the pain of death for the whales.
  Usually, the blade length of the whaling knife is between 16 and 19 cm. The blade has a strong cutting ability and is used as a survival saber in some areas. The whaling knife combined with the spinal cord cutter can quickly cut off the spinal cord between the head and neck of the whale, killing it with one blow. The main target of whaling in the Faroe Islands is the long-limbed pilot whale. In addition, some small cetaceans are also hunted, including Atlantic white dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and white-beaked dolphins. The hunting method is roughly the same.

Fishing and whaling are important sources of food for the local population of the Faroe Islands.

  In 2020, “Europe News”, “The Independent” and other media broke the news that 252 long-limbed pilot whales and 35 Atlantic white dolphins were killed in one day near a village at the southernmost tip of the Faroe Islands. The sea water was stained red with blood, and the smell of blood permeated the island. Moreover, it has been reported before that more than 950 giant whales are slaughtered in the Faroe Islands every year, and more than 500 tons of whale meat and blubber are produced. International public opinion was in an uproar. Netizens from various countries, animal protection organizations and environmental protection organizations have condemned the actions of the Faroe Islands. Also because the exposed photos of the whaling scene were too appalling, the Faroe Islands were once called “meat grinders” by netizens.
  However, the Faroe Islands, which are at the cusp of the crisis, have expressed their innocence. The island’s self-government says pilot whales are not an endangered species and that they are hunted to better provide food to the community. So until now, this whaling activity is still going on, but they have strengthened management-non-residents of the island, especially journalists, are not allowed to enter the event site.

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