Santa didn’t need Rudolf’s red nose to light the way because reindeer can see perfectly well in low-light. They do this by changing the colour of their tapetum lucidum, a layer of tissue behind the retina that reflects light. In the long, bright summer light it is gold, but in winter it turns blue. The colour change means that less light escapes from the eyes giving them a kind of night vision.
Reindeer are thought to be the only mammal able to see UV light. This increases contrast allowing them to see dark lichen against the snow and ensuring that they can find food during the long, dark winters.
Before Clement Clarke Moore wrote ‘A Visit from Saint Nicholas’, also known as ‘The Night Before Christmas’ in 1823, no one thought about reindeer in conjunction with Santa Claus. Moore introduced the world to Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem, the last two were later changed from Dutch to German, becoming Donner and Blitzen (thunder and lightning).
Rudolph wasn’t introduced until Robert L. May wrote a children’s book in verse for the American department store, Montgomery Ward in 1939 entitled ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’.
Santa’s reindeer are probably female. Reindeer shed their antlers at different points of the year based on their sex and age. Older male reindeer lose their antlers in December but Christmas reindeer are always depicted with their antlers. That means Santa’s sled either has to be pulled by young male reindeer, constantly replaced as they start to age, or Santa’s reindeer are all girls.
Santa knows Physics: Of all colors, Red Light penetrates fog best. That's why Benny the Blue-nosed reindeer never got the gig.
Siberian criminals use getaway sleds. Local indigenous minority populations are extremely skilled at driving reindeer-pulled sleds, which are much faster over snow than police snowmobiles.
In 2014, the Moscow Times reported that plans were afoot for a police reindeer division to tackle this specific problem.
To reach every chimney in the world in one night, Santa and his reindeer need to travel 221 million miles, moving at an average speed of 1,279 miles per second.
Life in the freezing environment in which reindeer live is tough, but reindeer have amazing evolutionary adaptations.
Reindeer are the only deer species which have hairy noses rather than shiny and moist ones. Their noses are specially adapted to warm the air they breathe before it enters their lungs. Their noses also condense water in the air, so they can keep their mucous membranes moist.
Their fur traps air, which not only helps provide them with excellent insulation, but also keeps them buoyant in water, which is critical because they often travel across massive rivers and lakes when migrating.
Even their hooves are special. In the summer, when the ground is wet, their foot pads are soft, providing them with extra traction. In the winter, the pads tighten, revealing the rim of their hooves and that provides traction on slippery snow and ice.
A poronkusema is a distance of about 7.5Km in Finland. It’s how far a reindeer can travel without stopping to urinate.
30,000 years ago, European paleolithic people ate mammoth but fed reindeer to their dogs.
Rudolph the red nosed reindeer was almost called Reginald.
The Finnish Reindeer Herders Association make their reindeer visible to motorists with a glow in the dark spray.
Reindeer are unique amongst deer in that they are actually attracted to the smell of human urine; Finnish and Siberian people have used this fact as a way of luring them for centuries. It’s thought to be because of their craving for salt.
Rudolph’s name means ‘famous wolf’ in German.
The maximum number of reindeer permitted in Finland by law is 203,700 (2005 legislation).
Because of a clicking tendon in their feet, a herd of migrating reindeer sounds like a castanet convention.
Gammelost is a Norwegian cheese made from reindeer's milk.
When native peoples kill reindeer they sometimes eat the stomach contents of partially digested lichens and other plants. Highly nutritious, especially as a source of vitamins A & B, it is considered a delicacy.
The only female deer to have antlers are reindeer.