By Matthew Brooks
Many Christmas stories that involve reindeer have bases in fact.
Reindeer are a type of deer that are commonly found in the arctic areas.
Unlike other deer species, both male and female reindeer grow antlers.
Reindeer use their antlers to dig through the snow to find vegetation to eat.
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
Reindeer noses are extra red. Scientists say this is so.
Reindeer get more blood to their noses, causing a reddish color.
According to Live Science, the reindeer have more “capillaries carrying red, oxygen-rich blood in their nasal architecture than humans.”
This extra blood flow is part of their biology that allows reindeer to endure the cold.
Another Rudolph-esque nature of reindeer: Migrating reindeer herds are led by a single reindeer.
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?
The nose of a reindeer may have a red appearance, but it doesn’t glow.
Reindeer do have a method for finding their way in the blizzards and fog.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, reindeer make clicking noises to help the herd stay together.
You know Dasher and Dancer…
Arctic societies use domesticated reindeer for their day-to-day needs.
Reindeer provide milk that has more fat than what cows offer. The extra fat is needed for survival in the cold, northern regions.
Despite the domestication, getting eight reindeer to pull a sleigh doesn’t really happen. Sorry, Santa.
Peoples living in northern Scandinavia do have their sleighs pulled by a reindeer, but usually only one reindeer.
On Donner and Blitzen!
Reindeer don’t fly, scientists probably say.
The reindeer do, however, run fast.
The top speed of a reindeer is about 50 mph.
A herd of reindeer sprinting across a white tundra does give the appearance of “flying” across the landscape.
They also swim at a top speed of about 6 mph.
Getting back the flying, an anthropologist has found ancient inscriptions that refer to the reindeer as “flying.”
Anthropologist Piers Vitebsky writes in “The Reindeer People” about stone tablets that describe flying reindeer.
On these stones, the reindeer is depicted with its neck outstretched and its legs flung out fore and aft, as if not merely galloping but leaping through the air. The antlers have grown fantastically till they reach right back to the tail, and sometimes hold the disc of the sun or a human figure with the sun as its head. The flung-out hooves seem to represent more than just a leap: it is as if the artist has caught the reindeer in the act of flying through the sky in an association with a deity of the sun.
Reindeer are real. They live in the north. Reindeer have antlers. Their noses are red. They pull sleighs. Reindeer don’t fly (or do they?). If Santa did use flying animals to pull his sleigh, reindeer are an excellent choice.
The author of this story ate reindeer meat for his first time at a Christmas dinner. He says reindeer meat is a low-fat meat with a good natural flavor.