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 hunters.

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.

REINDEER BODIES

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.