18 Fun Facts About Reindeer in Finland

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Animal lovers will enjoy these fun facts about reindeer in Finland. While they’re best known for pulling Santa’s sleigh, there’s so much to discover about these four-hooved ruminants (animals with a four-chambered stomach).

Read on and impress your holiday guests with these interesting facts about reindeer.

1) Reindeer and caribou are the same species. The only different thing is the name.

2)They are the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light. This ability helps prevent snow blindness.

It also makes urine easier to see, which helps them avoid predators or see if competitors are in the area. Furthermore, this superpower also makes it easier to spot lichen – a key food source, especially in winter.

fun facts about reindeer in Finland

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facts about reindeer in Finland

3)From my cycling experience across Finland, I learned that while they are not afraid of cars, they are scared of bikes! As soon as they would see me coming, they would stare for about 2 seconds, then make a mad dash for the woods.

Perhaps, I looked like a giant predator?

Facts About Santa’s Reindeer

wildlife in northern Finland

4)Santa’s reindeer are either young males or females. Older males have already lost their large antlers by the time Christmas comes around!

5) Never estimate the power of poetry! They first became associated with pulling Santa’s sleigh until the poem A Night Before Christmas, written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1823!

6)Santa’s eight reindeer originally had all Dutch names. Two of them were changed to German. You probably know Dunder and Blixern better as Donner and Blitzen. In English, they translate to Thunder and Lightening. 

7) Santa’s reindeer are most likely a Svalbard subspecies. They’re the smallest of all reindeer. You’ll only find them on the Svalbard Islands in Norway!

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Facts About Reindeer Calves

Cute reindeer calf seen in Salla, located in Finnish Lapland

8) Calves learn to stand up and walk within minutes of being born. Several hours later, they can run up to speeds of 75 km per hour! This adaptation is necessary to avoid predators, like wolves, wolverines or even bears!

cute calf in Hossa, Finland, who would have been able to stand and walk almost immediately after being born.

9)Their births are highly synchronized. Almost all of them are born within the same 10-day period in June.

Hanging out with a new calf who is only a few weeks old in Finnish Lapland.

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Facts About Reindeer Farming in Finland

10) Reindeer farmers are sexy! The three that I met all convinced their now wives to move from larger cities in southern Finland to join them in remote Lapland for an entirely different way of life.

11) It is hard work. All three of the herders I spoke with offered sleigh rides in winter as a way to top up their income. This, in itself, isn’t easy.

It can take an animal anywhere from 3 to 7 years to learn to pull a sleigh. It’s not that they are stupid; they’re very stubborn. Pulling a sleigh is hard work that they would rather (smartly, in my opinion) avoid.

12) There are no wild reindeer in Finnish Lapland. All of them belong to someone. Fortunately,  they are free to roam on vast swathes of land.

13) Not just anyone can get into this profession. If it hasn’t been passed on to you by your family, it’s complicated. You must be an EU citizen.

You must also be a permanent resident of the district you are applying for. Finally, you have to be approved by the reindeer herding district for the area where you live.

14) It plays an essential role in carrying on the traditions of the Sámi culture. Approximately 1000 Sámi are reindeer herders in Finland.

15) It’s very likely when you visit a park that at least one reindeer will be named Rudolph.

16) There are quite a few places to get close to these incredible animals in Lapland. I especially enjoyed my visit to Salla Reindeer Park.

17) It’s a popular meat in Scandinavia, but it’s also expensive. I found it very tasty, especially Poronkäristys, a reindeer dish surrounded by mashed potatoes. It’s considered to be healthier than beef.

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Albino Reindeer

Rare albino reindeer seen near Utsjoki in Finnish Lapand. He seemed to know that he was special and even took a few seconds to stop and pose.

Rare albino reindeer crossing the road near Utsjoki in Lapland. They have no fear of cars, but would disappear into the bush when they saw me on my bike.

18) True albino reindeer are very rare. I was fortunate to see this one near Utsjoki in northern Finland.

You can impress your holiday guests with these fun reindeer facts. Which one is your favourite?

two reindeer in winter
how many of these 18 facts do you know about reindeer?

This article was originally published in 2015 and updated and republished in Dec 2020. 

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