Saturday, 17 March 2012

Animals of the Viking Age

To commemorate the Viking Age,   Faroe Island Post issued the stamp set of fauna which have lived at the time, the Great Auk and Dimun Sheep on February 20, 2012. The stamp was designed by Astrid Andreassen.

The Great Auk is a bird of the genus Alca that lived in the North Atlantic. This bird  could grow up to 70 cm in height. They were flightless birds, with wings that were as small as the South Atlantic penguin. It was fast in the water when hunting fish but very clumsy on land.

The Great Auk  have distinctive appearance are a bright or whitish abdomens and dark-black backs, with a characteristic white spot on each side of the head, between the eyes and eye socket.

The Great Auk lived in large colonies along the coast on both sides of the North Atlantic, so far south that remains of the bird are found in Stone Age and Viking Age kitchen middens.The bird’s fate was sealed because it was easy to hunt and butcher.The most famous colony was on the Penguin Islands (called Faroe Island today), which lies north east of Newfoundland. The last Great Auks were killed in 1801-1802. the bird is now extinct. The Great Auk is an example of a bird that was hunted to extinction purely because of a lack of knowledge about its population distribution.

Dímun Sheep  is small and black and look a little like the more primitive feral Soay sheep that live on the island of St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides. They are called the goat-horned sheep, because both sexes have horns, though the ewe’s horns are smaller and more delicate than the ram’s horns.
The three sheep from Stóra Dímun were among the last of the original sheep in the Faroe Islands, and were perhaps brought by the Vikings.The Vikings brought their own sheep to Iceland and Greenland and almost certainly when they came to the Faroe Islands. Around 1600, almost all of the sheep on the Faroe Islands were wiped out by disease. But the small black sheep on Lítlu Dímun managed to survive, although by 1860 they were finally wiped out by hunting. (Resources : News of Faroe Island Post)

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