BACKGROUND: There is a limited information on the general health of Icelandic farmers. It has been suggested that it might be worse than among other professions. This is thought to be in part because of the unique work environment of farmers.The aims of the study were to compare the general health of animal farmers with a group of non-farmers, and test the hypothesis that animal farmers overall have a better general health than non-farmers. METHODS: A cross sectional study of all animal farmers in Iceland operating running a farm of more than 100 animal (sheep) units compared with a group of non-farmers. A total of 2042 farmers were sent a detailed questionnaire concerning general health symptoms and doctor visits (response rate 54%). The comparison group consisted of 1500 randomly chosen non-farming individuals (response rate 46%). RESULTS: Farmers comprised more males, were older and smoked less than non-farmers. When general health symptoms for the last 12 months were compared between farmers and non-farmers, minor differences were noted. Farmers less commonly had restless legs, fatigue, diarrhea, allergy and hearing loss. There were no differences in doctor visits for many chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension despite the age difference between the groups. Repeated absence from work was less common among farmers and they had shorter sick leaves than comparison group. CONCLUSIONS: Minor differences were noted in general symptoms and doctor visits between farmers and non-farmers despite the fact that farmers were older. Absence from work for illness is less common among farmers. This study suggest that farmers general health is not worse than that of others.