Let’s talk about this right now: Santa’s sleigh is girl powered! All your life you believed Santa’s sleigh was pulled by tough, male reindeer. Am I right? The fact is female reindeer don’t shed their antlers in winter. The males do. And some of those female reindeer are expecting. Here’s to the girls. Santa’s reindeer have antlers. Bam! Santa’s reindeer are female. Thank you.
Truth is, eleven months of the year we ignore reindeer. In the middle of a hot summer, unless you live in Lapland or around Svalbard, you probably don’t care. But come December reindeer take their place as symbols of the season. Santa can’t arrive without reindeer power and the buffet table looks pretty bleak without at least one reindeer ornament. But reindeer are amazing. Let’s explore…
Reindeer are not to be ignored. They travel further in their annual migration than any other land mammal, covering over 3,000 miles in a year cutting across northern Scandinavia.
Reindeer also have specialized noses with 25% more capillaries delivering warm red blood that heats the air before it reaches their lungs. No reindeer ever said, “Man, it was so cold out there it was like breathing in razor blades.” Rudolph and his red nose? Sort of.
Reindeer have special pads under their hooves that toughen up to withstand the Arctic cold and their hooves are covered with fur to insulate them from the snow. Each reindeer hair is hollow to trap cold air before it reaches their skin. Reindeer are warm and toasty in some of the coldest weather on the planet.
Reindeer have eyes that turn from yellow-brown in summer to deep blue in winter. Why is that? To capture more light in the dark northern winter months. Did you know reindeer are the only mammals that can see in the ultra-violet spectrum? This helps them find their way in the dark and see danger.
Reindeer are quiet most of the year. Reindeer moms talk to their babies but male reindeer seldom speak, unless it’s to find a mate once a year or converse with a herder.
Did you know reindeer can run at nearly 50 mph? And fly? In fact, research included in the book The Flight of the Reindeer, proved that reindeer can actually fly. Fly! They can run so fast they actually leave the ground. Imagine that.
The Sami people of northern Sweden are one of several indigenous peoples who are traditional reindeer herders. Their lives and their year is spent among the reindeer traveling throughout northern Scandinavia with their herds. One herder, whose family has herded reindeer for generations, described it as “our souls touch.”
And just in case you were wondering: elk are not reindeer. But reindeer and caribou are different names for the same species.
If you want to visit with Santa and his reindeer, I’ll leave you with Reindeer Cam.