You've dreamed about running with reindeer, speeding along super-fast on a beautiful sleigh across the pure, crisp, white snow as the landscape tears past and the trees turn into a deep green blur. It's actually just as good in real life, a dream-like experience provided by these legendary fast, wonderfully attractive animals. Reindeer sleigh rides are something special, and if they're not on your bucket list yet, they deserve to be! Here's some insight to inspire you.
Christmas brings a few key images to mind. Snow, of course, plus robins and roaring fires, and reindeer, pulling Santa's sled through the dark, sparkling skies while children wait, bright eyed and excited, under the covers. Christmas reindeer, real and furry and friendly, await you in Lapland and Finland, ready to whisk you away on a magical mystery tour across the Arctic Circle's snowy wastes.
The name reindeer comes from the Norse language, the Norse word for deer being hreinn. It's a member of the deer family, the Cervidae family. An icon of Finnish Lapland, there are just as many reindeer here as people. In fact reindeer and local Sámi people have a powerful connection that's many thousands of years old, a long history of semi-domestication, herding the animals, using them for their meat and their super-warm fur. In the far north reindeer racing is the eco-friendly alternative to racing cars or motorbikes. Reindeer races have been held since the 1930s, finishing off the racing season each year with the awesome Reindeer Championships.
A fantastic eco-friendly holiday activity, a reindeer sleigh ride, Finland or Lapland, lets you meet these charming semi-domesticated creatures in person, each owned by a herder. They usually roam free in the wilderness but are rounded up twice a year to have their ears marked and to be counted, an event lasting for several days and a spectacular sight. But whenever you visit Finnish Lapland you'll see the animals everywhere you go: while you're out skiing, by the side of the road, glimpsed through the trees.
Reindeer are famously gentle despite their huge antlers and large, flat feet. They're often a bit wary of humans, something it's important to explain to children. The reindeer you see on a reindeer sleigh ride, Lapland or anywhere else, have been trained specifically for the job.
In North America reindeer are called caribou. The male and female animals both have antlers, and their soft noses are specially designed to warm the freezing air before it gets to their lungs, perfectly adapted to their environment. Their flat, spread-out hooves are perfect for the conditions, acting like snow shoes and actually shrinking in the winter when the ground is less soggy. Their home range can be as big as 190 square miles.
If you're a reindeer you live in a herd, and you dislike being alone. That's why some reindeer sub-species' knees make loud clicking sounds, which the animals use to find each other and stay together in bad weather. Some of these amazing creatures travel as far as 3000 miles a year, an extraordinary feat.
Reindeer are herbivores and only eat vegetation. Their diet includes herbs, ferns, moss, grass, shoots, fungi and leaves, and an adult animal eats as much as to 8kg of vegetation a day. In the winter they use their antlers to dig through the snow for food, seeking special energy-packed lichens called reindeer moss. The female reindeer gives birth to one baby at a time, although some can have as many as four babies, called calves. They mature at age 4-6 and can live for as long as 18 years. What a truly extraordinary animal they are.
You might want to take a snowmobile trip with a reindeer herder, who calls his herd in for food as you watch them approach through the trees. You may want to visit a genuine Sami reindeer homestead and learn more about the people and their extraordinary lives. You might just have a burning ambition to experience reindeer pulling sleigh with you on board, wrapped up cosy and warm in lovely, furry skins.
Our reindeer sleigh experiences are always popular with children, and it makes an exhilarating, thrilling family experience. Choose an evening reindeer safari with romance at its heart if you like, perfect for couples. You can even combine your sleigh ride with the Northern Lights - truly, madly and deeply unforgettable!
Talk it through or book now – Always happy to help
If you'd like to talk the reindeer sled experience through with an expert before deciding to go ahead, we'll be delighted to help. Otherwise book yours now and prepare for the ultimate in snow-led fun.