What Are Reindeer?!?

What Are Reindeer?!?

What Are ReindeerWe all know that each year Santa loads up his sleigh and takes off to travel the world in a night driven by eight (sometimes nine) reindeer. But has anyone ever seen a reindeer? Do they actually exist? Of course, if they do, surely they can’t fly!  But why is Santa associated with these creatures? Do they actually have superpowers? There are just so many questions people don’t know about these mythical animals that land on our rooftops each Christmas. It’s a good thing that NORAD tracks them or we’d all be in the dark! The following list will offer the answers you’ve been looking for when it comes to reindeer lore. Happy Holidays and look out for low-flying reindeer!



Yes. Reindeer are a sub-species of deer that we call Caribou in North America. While they don’t eat magic corn, they are herbivores that live off of plants. Most reindeer run wild, but in Lapland, they have been known to be domesticated and used to actually pull pulks (a type of toboggan). Lapland is an area of land that stretches between Norway, Finland, and Russia, and is almost entirely within the Arctic circle. Reindeers DO NOT fly.

An actual reindeer...


Reindeer are the only species of deer that grow antlers on both the male and the female. The reason for this may be a matter of evolution. While normal, whitetail deer run through forests, reindeer are exclusively found in colder climates. Because of this, they have evolved to break ice and shovel snow aside with their antlers. Male reindeer shed their antlers in late Fall, but females keep their antlers until the spring. From this, we can conclude that Santa’s reindeer are all females!


Even though the story of Santa Claus has been around for centuries, flying reindeer didn’t show up until 1823. That’s the year that Clement Clarke Moore anonymously printed his poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas“.  You might know the poem by it’s more commonly known name, “Twas the Night Before Christmas“. He even named Santa’s reindeer as we know them today: DasherDancerPrancer,VixenCometCupidDonder (or Donner), and Blitzen.


Santa and his sleigh


Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer, is a part of American commercialism. Rudolph was created by Robert L. May in 1939 for the Montgomery Ward Company. The Red Nosed Reindeer was part of a coloring book that the retail store gave to children at Christmastime. Later, that same year, May teamed up with his brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, and the song, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was turned into a holiday classic with Gene Autry singing. Autry, a popular country-western music singer, thought the song would ruin his career, but decades later, it is still considered his greatest work. Until the 1980s, the song was the second biggest selling record of all time.


While reindeer do not have the ability to fly, they are the only mammals on the planet that can truly see in the ultraviolet spectrum. It is believed that they have gained this ability since they live primarily in the Arctic and other very cold regions. So what does this mean that they can see in the ultraviolet spectrum? Ultraviolet light is created by short wavelengths, typically only seen by some birds and insects. It is produced by radiation and is what causes our skin to tan. Reindeer walk around and can see things you might notice under a black light, such as blood, urine, and three dimensional shapes in materials such as fur. Flying might be cooler, but they are stuck with this…