Hånnlamb (Gotland lamb)

From Cookipedia


SUB Hånnlamb designates the carcases and cuts of lambs and sheep of the ‘Gutefår’ breed that are born, reared and slaughtered within the defined geographical area of Gotland. In the Gotland dialect, ‘Hånnlamb’ means ‘horned sheep’. It is the original name of the horned sheep of Gotland that were saved from extinction in the early 20th century and then designated the ‘Gutefår’ breed. The breed originates from the old Gotlandic ‘Allmogefår’ sheep breed, the characteristics of which have been moulded over thousands of years by Gotland’s climate and vegetation. The sheep are raised on natural pastures offering poor fodder compared to arable land, and have adapted to making the most of the vegetation that grows there. Their meat has been marketed both on Gotland and elsewhere in Sweden. ‘Hånnlamb’ animals intended for slaughter must be of the Gutefår breed and meet the racial purity requirements laid down by one of the breed societies (GutefårAkademin or Föreningen Gutefåret) and be included in their gene banks for the preservation of the breed. The animals must be reared on the natural pastures of Gotland.

Grazing in these natural areas gives the meat a special character. Grass and herbs contain, for example, high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants such as vitamin E. meat from lambs fed on such herbs and grass therefore contains more of these substances and has a different fatty acid profile and thus a characteristic taste. Vitamin E indirectly affects the taste by preventing fatty acids from breaking down. Breed-specific differences in taste exist which stem from differences above all in the fat cover, but also in the breed’s ability to make the most of different types of fodder. By adapting, ‘hånnlamb’ has become well accustomed to pastures with poor but speciesrich fodder, which also gives rise to specific characteristics in the meat. The energy content of the meat is approximately 100-170 kcal, or 470-700 kJ per 100 g of meat, depending on how it is cut up. The fat content varies between approximately 2 % and 10 % and consists of more or less equal proportions of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, with polyunsaturated fatty acids making up approximately 10 % of the total fatty acid content. meat from natural pastures has higher proportions of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3 fatty acids (especially alpha-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid), because the plants growing on them contain these fatty acids. The quantities of omega-3 fatty acids can vary by a factor of as much as 5 depending on the plants eaten. The proportions of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the meat are affected by the feed/pasturage and in turn affect the taste experience.

The taste of ‘hånnlamb’ meat can be described as distinctive; it is juicy with a hint of liver and blood and has buttery characteristics (clarified butter), a woodsy taste (earth, moss and mushrooms), an acidic taste and a distinct metallic after-taste. In addition, the lamb has a naturally salty taste, with hints of herbs and chestnut and a widely perceived gamey flavour. Tasting panels have linked metallic, woodsy, buttery and meaty acidic tastes to lamb. The most intense taste was that of butter, followed by metallic and woodsy tastes. The meat is fine-grained, with a darker colour and less fat cover than meat from more commercial breeds. In daylight the meat is moderately dark red and the fat is white in colour.

One characteristic of landrace animals is that they display great variety. They look different and vary in size. Adult ‘gutefår’ sheep vary in weight, even within the same age group. The live weight of ewes averages 50 kg, but can vary between 40 and 70 kg, with a corresponding variation for rams of 60-80 kg. This means that there are also variations in the growth and weight of the lambs. The weight at slaughter of lambs from Lilla Karlsö, for example, varies between 16 and 21 kg. There are no requirements in terms of maximum or minimum age at slaughter in order to sell the meat as ‘hånnlamb’. The assessment of whether an animal is classified as mutton or lamb is carried out by means of a visual examination of the carcase. The upper age limit for ‘hånnlamb’ lamb is 16 months, after which it is classified as mutton. On selling ‘hånnlamb’, it must be made clear whether the meat comes from a lamb or an adult sheep. The minimum weight of carcases that may be sold as ‘hånnlamb’ is 12 kg. There is no set weight limit for individual cuts as this has not been deemed necessary. Lambs are usually slaughtered in the early autumn once they have reached a live weight of about 30-50 kg. Older animals are slaughtered throughout the year.


For the entire plant production season, the ‘hånnlamb’ grazes on natural pastures and benefits from the nutrients available in the vegetation. Depending on climatic factors and growth conditions in the natural pastures, additional feed including hay/silage may be given in the spring and late autumn. The lambs follow their mothers to the natural pastures. The lambs start to graze at the age of approximately 1 month, but they continue to suckle as a means of social interaction until late in the autumn. In the winter, the ewes and rams feed on hay and/or silage. The ewes may be given concentrated feed supplements from 1 month before to 1 month after lambing. Both the roughage and the concentrated feed must come from the identified geographical area. Hay for winter fodder is produced on arable land. The composition varies according to the land conditions, but often comprises mixtures of grass species such as timothy, meadow fescue and perennial ryegrass mixed with strains of alfalfa and other herbs. Silage is made using the same crop as used for hay. There are no requirements concerning the choice of feed concentrates other than that feeding must be limited to approximately a month before and after lambing.

Specific steps in production that must take place in the defined geographical area

The animals intended for slaughter must be born and raised in natural pastures within the defined geographical area (they may be kept on other land within the defined geographical area for short periods of time during the grazing season and outside the grazing period). The grazing period for lambs prior to slaughter must be at least 4 months. The grazing period for adult animals must be at least 7 months a year.

Concise definition of the geographical area

The geographical area consists of the island of Gotland and adjacent islands and islets. The geographical area corresponds to the Province of Gotland, including Gotska Sandön. Gotland is the Baltic Sea’s biggest island and is located at 57°29′57″N 18°30′34″E. The island is different to most of the rest of Sweden in that the bedrock is made up of limestone.

Link with the geographical area

Gotland has a maritime climate. The temperature is relatively stable over the year thanks to the area’s location in the Baltic, with cool summers but mild autumns and winters. ‘Hånnlamb’ is a hardy breed originating from the Gotlandic ‘Allmogefår’ breed, the characteristics of which have been moulded by Gotland’s climate and vegetation over thousands of years. The sheep roamed all year round across the area — in coastal meadows, over alvar land and in forests. As a result of this way of life, Gotlandic sheep living in the fields were well adapted to the island’s unique natural environment.

This sheep breed retains many original characteristics which are no longer present in modern sheep breeds. For example, the sheep’s gastrointestinal system is designed so as to allow the animal to make the most of the poor natural pastures on Gotland. The county governor’s 5-year reports from the 19th century state that the island’s pastureland was well suited to sheep rearing and that sheep rearing was of great importance to Gotland. According to the reports, the Gotlandic sheep breed was hardy because the animals were outdoors all year round. Additionally, they were small in size but produced good meat that had a pronounced gamey taste. The latter quality was seen to result, among other things, from the mixture of herbs in the natural pastures.

According to older sources, sheep meat — whether fresh, smoked or salted — was a significant Gotlandic export. sheep meat has been regularly exported, for example, to Stockholm since the mid-18th century. In 1918 an initiative was launched to save the Gotlandic sheep, the ‘hånnlamb’, from extinction. New herds were gradually formed from the ‘hånnlamb’ that were gathered together. This meant that the Gotland landrace sheep, the ‘hånnlamb’, was saved. In 1973 the term ‘gutefår’ was approved for the horned landrace from Gotland, traditionally called ‘hånnlamb’ in the Gutamål and Gotlandic dialects. Both the ewes and the rams of the ‘hånnlamb’ breed have horns.

Nowadays the rearing of the hånnlamb is based on methods very similar to those used in the past, though it complies with the rules laid down by the authorities and legislation. Breeding is strictly controlled and follows a breeding plan established by the Swedish Board of Agriculture, which prohibits targeted breeding and crossbreeding with other breeds. The ‘hånnlamb’ breed therefore retains the appearance and characteristics that it has had for thousands of years. Archaeological finds show that sheep breeding has been carried out on the Gotland islands for more than 4 000 years. sheep breeding became very important on Gotland from early on.

The fact that the island’s free farmers used the ‘väduren’, an older ram, as a symbol on their seals as early as the 13th century provides further proof of the importance of sheep farming for Gotland. The ‘väduren’ symbolised southern Gotland’s division into three parts for a long time before featuring on the emblem for all of Gotland, and it continues to be the island’s official symbol. The ‘väduren’ ram also decorates the coat of arms of the Region, the Province and the County of Gotland.

Causal link between the geographical area and a specific quality, the reputation or other characteristic of the product

The lime content and maritime climate have endowed the natural pastures on Gotland with a special and rich variety of herbs. This is true also for the sparse coniferous forests, where the flora is very rich in herbs and grass as a result of the lime content. Up to 20-40 plant species per m2 can grow in the natural pastures. Even today pastureland covers a large part of Gotland’s surface area, though it has decreased in size and now makes up about 40 000 hectares. The dry Gotlandic climate together with grazing in natural areas gives the ‘hånnlamb’ breed a strong meaty taste. Scientific studies show that the taste of the meat is affected by the water content of the feed. The abundance of herbs, e.g. wild thyme, in the natural pastures of Gotland means that the meat has a distinct gamey taste, a quality mentioned in historical texts, and the meat is considered a highly sought-after delicacy

Reference: The European Commission