What is the market value of sheep?

“Sheep” by lostajy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What is the going price for sheep? We can use that information to develop some very rough approximations of prices during the Viking age.

My conclusion at the end of this post:

  • $150 – looks to be about the best estimate for a productive ewe
  • $200 – price for a productive ewe, rounded off to a single significant digit and giving more weight to the more analytically focused articles found.

Follow along as this city boy sorts out prices for sheep. I learned a lot along the way.

11/1/17 (article written in 2002) – Countryside Daily – Raising Sheep: Buying and Caring for Your First Flock – This was the most helpful of a number of articles I read. It is focused on someone who wants to start raising sheep on a small acreage or someone wanting to become a part-time farmer. The focus on a small flock makes for a good comparison to ancient days when farmers would not be running hundreds of animals that would be raising what could be tended to by a family.

Article gives background on how to get started, including where to get animals and what to look for when starting a herd.

Here are some rough estimates of prices as of 2002:

  • $200 – $250 – a younger ewe (female) in the ideal age of two years up to four years.
  • Higher than $200-250 range – a bred ewe, (for us city boys that means female which has a higher price because you will quickly have yield from the ewe, specifically a new lamb)
  • Less than the $200 – $250 range – an older ewe, aged five years and higher – lower price because there are less productive years left
  • $75-$150 – lambs
  • $100-$150 – ram (lots of options exist, including borrowing ram for a friendly neighbor, renting a ram, buying one and selling them after the breeding season)

Here is some technical breakout, which of course is new info for me:

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Size of Viking raiding parties

Not a good omen for whoever is on land ahead of them. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

How many warriors did the Vikings put ashore during raids? The size of the raids grew over time, starting small with fast-strike harassing plunders and growing to the point where the arrival of Vikings constituted a major invasion.

Here are a few guesses, from writers who have some basis for making such guesses.

In The Vikings course from Great Courses, Prof. Kenneth Harl makes the statement that the typical raiding party in early or mid 9th century may have been 10 or 20 ships. At 50 or 60 warriors per ship, this would be somewhere in the range of 500 up to 1,200 warriors.

By the end of the 9th century, the raiders could gather in forces of 100 or 120 ships. He thinks they may have been able to put 5,000 or even 10,000 men ashore. That would mean the longships carried somewhere between 50 and 80 warriors each.

Here is my recap of his guess on size of raids:

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