Then, in the early 1800's, a man named Clement Moore wrote a poem
about me. I'm sure you know it. It was called " 'Twas the night before
Christmas". In his poem, Santa Claus traveled in a sleigh pulled by eight
tiny reindeer. This is where the stories about me start to take on more of the
truth. Seems that Mr. Moore had seen me one night, when I came and went from
his house, and that is how he learned the names of my eight reindeer. Later,
when Rudolph joined us, it became nine reindeer. Some forty years later, Thomas
Nast, an American cartoonist, drew a big, jolly Santa Claus with a white beard.
The story was created that all year long I made toys and delivered them at Christmas...
no one had figured out about my elves yet... and building on the poem by Mr.
Moore, the story stuck that I also drove a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer.
More of my story was coming out. Personally, I think that maybe parts of the
poem and pictures where based on the Lapp people of northern Scandinavia. Their
sleighs were pulled by reindeer. And of course, Santa Claus was said to live
in the frigid north.
Now, what about those flying Reindeer? Let's start by talking about the average
reindeer, the ones that everyone sees around the world. These are just your everyday,
normal reindeer... but I can tell you that once and awhile there is a "special one" born.
These special reindeer are the ones that I take into my reindeer school for flight training.
But first, let's talk about the normal, average reindeer.
REINDEER vs. CARIBOU
Reindeer belong to the deer family... yes, Bambi is a cousin. In North America,
mainly Canada and Alaska, the wild reindeer found there are called caribou. The reindeer
found in northern Europe and Asia are simply called reindeer. The scientific name for
reindeer and caribou is the same, "Rangifer Tarandus". In northern Europe they migrate,
or travel, across the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Siberia.
At one time, I think that reindeer roamed all across Europe. You can find paintings
of reindeer and other animals in caves in France and Spain. The artists who painted these
pictures, lived during the Stone Age, and the pictures are at least 25,000 years old. The
reindeer found there would have been an excellent source of food for these Stone Age
In North America, you will find two types of caribou. First, the barren ground
caribou lives in Alaska and northern Canada. The second type, the woodland caribou, is
found in southeastern Canada and Newfoundland. Scientists are now quite sure that the
caribou once roamed farther south into the United States. Areas such as Maine, New
Hampshire, Vermont, Michigan, and Minnesota show signs that they once lived there. As
people moved into these areas the caribou left for other areas farther north.
The male reindeer are called bulls. They stand 3 to 4 feet tall at the shoulder, that is
about your height there, my little friend. When they are grown up, they will weigh in at
about 400 pounds. The female reindeer are called cows, and are smaller than the males.
The reindeer have thick coats that keep them warm in cold weather. Their fur is
typically brown with white patches on the neck, rump and feet. Their underfur is thick and woolly, and it really keeps them warm. When the reindeer eat, they have to dig in the snow for food. Because of this, their nose, or muzzle, has a thick coat of hair to protect it. They need this thick fur because it gets very cold where they live. The temperature can reach 90 degrees below zero in some areas. So you see, the Reindeer are very well suited for living with me at the Northpole.