All About Reindeer: Fun, Festive, and Factual

reindeer

Reindeer are the animals of Christmas lore, particularly Santa Claus’ reindeer, Dasher; Dancer; Prancer; Vixen; Comet; Cupid; Donder; Blitzen; and Rudolph. As they are well known for flying Santa Claus all over the world on Christmas Eve, these reindeer are quite fascinating. Apart from that, there are many other fascinating information about the Christmas lore regarding reindeer and reindeer in general. Find out more about these fascinating animals as you read along.

WORD ASSOCIATIONS

The word reindeer is actually of Old Norse origin. It came from the word, ‘hreindyri’ that is derived from the words, ‘hreinn’ and ‘dyr’. The word, ‘hreinn’, itself, means reindeer, and the word, ‘dyr’ means animal. So the word, ‘hreindyri’ means “reindeer animal”. Moreover, the origin of the word, ‘hreinn’ could’ve been from Proto-Indo-European word, ‘krei’ which means horn; head pertaining to horned animals.

The scientific name for reindeer is rangifer tarandus. The term for a male reindeer is bull, for a female reindeer is cow, and for a baby reindeer is calf.

Another word for reindeer is caribou. They are two different words, but they are basically the same species. However, generally, those domesticated and herded by humans are called reindeer, while the wild are called caribou. In addition, reindeer are usually smaller and have shorter legs as compared to the caribou.

WHY DID SANTA CLAUS CHOOSE THE REINDEER TO FLY HIS SLEIGH?

Hailing from the northern Arctic regions, as well as in northern Europe and Siberia, the reindeer are accustomed to the cold. In fact, their anatomy allows them to withstand the Arctic environment. To keep them well-insulated, they have thick hollow hair that traps air for holding in body heat. When breathing, their noses have the capability to warm the air before it passes through their lungs. For maintaining heat within their bodies, their bodies undergo a countercurrent heat exchange. Through the countercurrent heat exchange, the cold blood draws heat from the warm blood as the warm blood passes along the cold blood in their circulation system. To keep them from slipping on snow and ice, the rim of their hooves aids them to manage, as it cuts into ice and crusted snow. Also, their hooves and antlers are useful in searching for food beneath the snow.

All of the aforementioned characteristics that make the reindeer resilient to the cold, snow, and ice are what made them the best choice for Santa Claus to fly his sleigh. Such characteristics also allow them to live in comfort at the North Pole with Santa Claus. Apart from those characteristics, it is also worth noting that the reindeer are quite fast. According to scientists, reindeer can run at 37-50 mph (60-80 km per hour). Although it has not yet been determined by scientists how fast they can fly, they most probably are also quick in the sky. They do, in fact, make it possible to deliver all those billions of presents all over the world in just one night.

ONE OF THE FIRST DOMESTICATED ANIMALS

The reindeer living at the North Pole with Santa Claus are an example of domesticated reindeer. Herded by the Arctic and subarctic peoples for centuries, it was around 2,000 years ago when reindeer were first domesticated. Scientists believe that the reindeer are among the first animals to be domesticated. Till present, many Arctic societies are relying on reindeer for food; clothing; and materials for shelter.

LIFE IN THE WILD

Usually found in vast; flat; treeless Arctic regions called tundras, caribous live with large herds. Along with their fellow caribous, they feed; travel; and rest together. The herd is usually composed of ten to a few hundred caribous. During spring, the herd can even enormously grow to 50,000 to 500,000 members. To help them stay together, especially to allow them to keep track of each other during poor visibility, such as in whiteout blizzard conditions, a clicking sound is produced in their feet when they walk, as tendons slip over the bones in their feet. In their search for food in the winter, the caribous can travel south around 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to 3,000 m (5,000 km). In the wild, they can live up to 15 years. Santa Claus’ magical reindeer, though, have lived for hundreds of years.

FIRST OFFICIAL REINDEER APPEARANCE IN CHRISTMAS LORE

Santa Claus’ first eight reindeer came to be known when Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, “The Night Before Christmas”, which he wrote in the year 1822, was published in the year 1823. It was first published anonymously and was later on attributed to him when he claimed the authorship for it in 1837.

All the names of the eight reindeer were mentioned in one verse of the poem as it described how Santa Claus called out their names as they were on their flight to carry out their deliveries for Christmas Eve:

“Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

THE ADDITION OF THE LUMINOUS;

RED-NOSED REINDEER, RUDOLPH

It was in the 20th century when the most famous luminous; red-nosed reindeer came as an addition to Santa Claus’ herd of sleigh-pulling reindeer, Rudolph. While the previous eight reindeer came to be known through a poem, Rudolph’s story was told in a storybook written by Robert Lewis May in the year 1939 for Montgomery Ward department store.

Despite having become so famous among all of Santa Claus’ reindeer, in Rudolph’s story, he hasn’t always been so popular among his peers due to his oddly luminous; red nose. He was, in fact, often mocked and was a social outcast. But he later became a hero, as it was with his luminous; red nose that he was able to help Santa Claus and his eight reindeer carry out the deliveries of gifts one inclement-weathered Christmas Eve with poor visibility.

Rudolph and his distinctive feature were discovered by Santa Claus when he stopped by Rudolph’s house to bring in Rudolph’s gifts. Thinking that with Rudolph’s brightly glowing nose, Rudolph may guide him and his eight reindeer in their travel through the inclement weather, Santa Claus asked Rudolph if he can help. And Rudolph did, willingly. From then, Rudolph became the lead reindeer every Christmas Eve for the delivery of gifts all over the world.

REINDEER’S MULTIFUNCTIONAL HEADGEAR

It was in the 20th century when the most famous luminous; red-nosed reindeer came as an addition to Santa Claus’ herd of sleigh-pulling reindeer, Rudolph. While the previous eight reindeer came to be known through a poem, Rudolph’s story was told in a storybook written by Robert Lewis May in the year 1939 for Montgomery Ward department store.

Despite having become so famous among all of Santa Claus’ reindeer, in Rudolph’s story, he hasn’t always been so popular among his peers due to his oddly luminous; red nose. He was, in fact, often mocked and was a social outcast. But he later became a hero, as it was with his luminous; red nose that he was able to help Santa Claus and his eight reindeer carry out the deliveries of gifts one inclement-weathered Christmas Eve with poor visibility.

Rudolph and his distinctive feature were discovered by Santa Claus when he stopped by Rudolph’s house to bring in Rudolph’s gifts. Thinking that with Rudolph’s brightly glowing nose, Rudolph may guide him and his eight reindeer in their travel through the inclement weather, Santa Claus asked Rudolph if he can help. And Rudolph did, willingly. From then, Rudolph became the lead reindeer every Christmas Eve for the delivery of gifts all over the world.

REINDEER’S FAVORITE FOOD

As they are herbivores, reindeer are fond of eating herbs; ferns; mosses; grasses; shoots; fungi; and leaves. But their favorite food is lichen, also called reindeer moss. Rich in carbohydrates, lichen is a good source of energy for the reindeer. Four to 11 pounds (1.8 to 4.9 kilograms) of reindeer moss can be consumed by a reindeer each day. However, as it gets covered in snow in the Arctic, the reindeer have to dig for their food. They have their strong sense of smell to aid them in searching for their food.

Rest assured, Santa Claus’ reindeer are well-fed and nourished at the North Pole with the care of the elves. They are also delighted to occasionally receive some of Mrs. Claus’ sweet treats that she baked with the elves.

Although the reindeer do appreciate the carrots and celery people usually leave for them as a snack on Christmas Eve, now that you’re enlightened on what food they are really into, you might want to leave some green leafy goods for the reindeer.

THE EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY OF SANTA CLAUS’ REINDEER

The ability of Santa Claus’ reindeer to fly can arouse curiosity. One may wonder how are they able to fly—could it be in the food they eat—could it be that they were born with flying powers?

It is actually Christmas magic that allows the reindeer to fly. The reindeer also undergo training for the whole year, year by year to be fit for flying on Christmas Eve. So the Christmas magic along with their training make it possible for them to fly Santa Claus in assistance for the delivery of gifts all over the world in just one night, on Christmas Eve.

To begin with, reindeer are, indeed, such fascinating creatures, with their impressive antlers; the convenience of their anatomy’s resilience to the Arctic environment; their ability to migrate extremely far distances; and the benefits Arctic societies are able to get from them. With all that said, there’s no questioning why Santa Claus chose reindeer as his travel buddies during Christmas Eve. Santa Claus’ reindeer are not just any ordinary reindeer. With their magical powers and special extensive training, Santa Claus’ reindeer aid in promoting Christmas cheer each and every year.

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