You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. And we all know Rudolph. But do you know Baffin, Nutti, Camus or Spike? They’re members of the Cairngorm reindeer herd in Britain’s largest national park.
These lesser-known reindeer hail from the Cairngorm mountains in Scotland. Yes… you heard that right. The windiest, wildest place in Scotland is home to a herd of 150 reindeer who have lived in the Cairngorms National Park since 1952. Introduced by a Swedish reindeer herder, these reindeer hail from Sweden, Norway and Russia… quite the multicultural bunch!
Every morning, the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre leads guided hikes up the mountainside to hand feed these incredible creatures. Depending on the time of year, your experience could include a leisurely walk on a rough gravel path (May-December) or may include a 30-minute walk over rough, snowy and icy terrain (February-April). If you’re a little unsure on your feet… wait for the warm weather!
I had a blast getting up close and personal with Santa’s favorite animal. These reindeer clearly know the drill and begin making their way to the fence as the guides give instructions. Each participant gets a handful or two of food, and it’s gone before you know it!
Did you know?
- Reindeer are the only species of deer whose females also grow antlers.
- Call them Mario, because mushrooms are one of their favorite ways to power up.
- Reindeer lose their antlers every year. Males lose their antlers before winter. Women keep theirs during pregnancy and lose them after winter, to maintain dominance over the males. Is this proof that Dasher and Dancer are lady reindeer?!
- The only thing biting is the cold! Reindeer have small bottom teeth and a hard palate, so don’t worry about little fingers!
- No razors necessary. Reindeer may be one of the hairiest creatures in the world. With fur covering every inch of their body (yes, even their noses and in between their hooves), they’re protected from harsh weather. Their hair is hollow, creating an extra layer of insulation.
- The only body part not covered in hair? Their eyes!
- A reindeer’s body is like a dual-climate controlled car. Their body temperature is 100°F, while their leg temperature is 48°F.
- Ice, ice, baby. Reindeer are so effective at managing their body temperature, laying on snow won’t melt it!
- In another life, reindeer could have been a model. In an effort to conserve heat, they walk one foot in front of each other, stepping in exactly in previously made hoof prints, a bit like a model on the catwalk.
- Growth spurt is an understatement! A reindeer’s antlers can grow up to 3 inches every week!
- Oh baby! Reindeer babies learn to walk within their first two hours of life. They stay with their mom for one year… sometimes up to two or three years.
Planning to visit the Cairngorm reindeer?
- Arrive early. Tickets (£14) are first come, first served and cannot be prebooked. Don’t miss out on this once in a lifetime experience for a little extra sleep!
- Rent a pair of wellies from the shop. It’s the best 50p I spent that day!
- If you miss the hill trip or are looking for an option that doesn’t involve hiking, a trip to the paddocks is only £3.50. This is a great way to meet some of the reindeer and learn about them in an interactive museum.
If there’s someone in your life who needs extra NICE points with Santa this year, consider adopting one of Father Christmas’ reindeer! For £39 per year, you will receive a photograph and certificate, souvenirs, two newsletters throughout the year and an opportunity to visit the herd of reindeer free of charge.