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A serving of smalahove at Voss, Norway
Alternative namesSmalehovud, Skjelte
CourseMain course
Place of originNorway
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsLamb head

Smalahove (also called smalehovud, sau(d)ehau(d) or skjelte) is a Western Norwegian traditional dish made from a sheep's head, originally eaten before Christmas.[1] The name of the dish comes from the combination of the Norwegian words hove and smale. Hove is a dialectal form of hovud, meaning "head" (cf. Hǫfuð), and smale is a word for sheep, so smalahove literally means "sheep head".[2][3] The skin and fleece of the head are torched, the brain removed, and the head is salted, sometimes smoked, and dried. The head is boiled or steamed for about three hours, and served with mashed swede/rutabaga and potatoes. It is also traditionally served with akevitt.[4] In some preparations, the brain is cooked inside the skull and then eaten with a spoon or fried.[5] Originally, smalahove was typically eaten by the poor.[6]

Traditional consumption


One serving usually consists of one half of a head. The ear and eye are normally eaten first, as they are the fattiest areas and are best eaten warm.[7] The head is often eaten from the front to the back, working around the bones of the skull.


Burning the wool off a head

Since 1998 and the mad cow epidemics, an EU directive forbids the production of smalahove from adult sheep,[8] due to fear of the possibility of transmission of scrapie, a deadly, degenerative prion disease of sheep and goats, though scrapie does not appear to be transmissible to humans. It is now allowed to be produced only from the heads of lambs.[4]



Smalahove is considered by most people to be unappealing or even repulsive.[7] It is enjoyed mostly by enthusiasts, and is often served to tourists. Because of its status as an "extreme" food, tourists often seek it out as a thrill. Voss, Norway, in particular has benefited from tourists wishing to try it, "not only as a nostalgic and authentic rural dish, but also as a challenging culinary trophy appealing to thrill-seeking consumers."[9]

See also



  1. ^ "Førjulsmat for tøffinger" [Pre-Christmas food for the brave] (in Norwegian). Opplysningskontoret for egg og kjøtt. Archived from the original on 3 September 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  2. ^ "Bokmålsordboka/Nynorskordboka". Universitetet i Oslo & Språkrådet. Archived from the original on 28 April 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  3. ^ "Bokmålsordboka/Nynorskordboka". Universitetet i Oslo & Språkrådet. Archived from the original on 28 April 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Smalahove portalen" (in Norwegian). dform.no. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  5. ^ Hopkins, Jerry; Bourdain, Anthony; Freeman, Michael (2004). Extreme cuisine: the weird & wonderful foods that people eat. Tuttle Publishing. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-7946-0255-0.
  6. ^ "Smalahove (Sheeps Head) with Rutabaga & Potatoes Recipe Norway". 2018-05-19.
  7. ^ a b Miller-Gadling, Laurel (18 March 2011). "Bizzare [sic] European Delicacies". Fox News. Archived from the original on 22 March 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  8. ^ Skogstrøm, Lene (1997-08-05). "Nye EU-regler fra 1. januar 1998 skal hindre smitte av skrapesyke og kugalskap: Vil koste flere hundre millioner" (in Norwegian). Aftenposten. p. 3.
  9. ^ Gyimóthy, Szilvia; Mykletun, Reidar Johan (24 June 2009). "Scary food: Commodifying culinary heritage as meal adventures in tourism". Journal of Vacation Marketing. 15 (3): 259–273. doi:10.1177/1356766709104271. S2CID 154633997.