Q: Can reindeer really fly?
A: Most reindeer can’t fly, but Santa’s reindeer are special. Because they’re magic, they can fly very high and very far without getting tired.
A: Reindeer live in arctic and subarctic climates, and Santa spends some of his “off-time” traveling to evaluate reindeer and find the truly gifted ones that can pull his sleigh. I often get to travel with Santa to make sure the reindeer are healthy.
A: Santa feeds them hay and reindeer feed, with the occasional graham cracker Christmas cookie as a treat. They also eat mosses, grass (when it’s not covered with snow, that is!) and lichens. They get to eat the hay any time they want, but they get their reindeer feed twice a day.
A: The male reindeer usually weigh up to 450 pounds (205 kg), and the females weigh up to 250 pounds (114 kg). There have been some male reindeer that weighed in at 700 pounds (318 kg)!
A: Both male and female reindeer grow antlers.
A: Because he’s magic, nobody really knows how old Rudolph is. He may even be as old as Santa, but I can tell you he’s healthy and he can certainly keep up with the younger reindeer.
A: Yes, but not all the time. You’ll often see him looking like all the other reindeer, with a black nose, because he’s learned how to control the glow.
A: Rudolph actually has a medical condition called nasus roseus (pronounced “NAY-suss ROSE-ee-us”) that makes his nose glow bright red like a light bulb. It doesn’t hurt, though, so don’t worry. And if you’re familiar with the story of Rudolph, you’ll know that his glowing nose makes it possible for Santa to complete his mission even in a blizzard or heavy fog.
A: Like other ruminants (such as cattle, sheep, goats and deer), reindeer don’t have incisor teeth on their upper jaw. They have what’s called a ‘dental plate,’ which still allows them to bite off grass. Their premolar and molar teeth are made for grinding grass, hay, moss and lichen, and are very similar to the premolars and molars of grass-eating animals such as cows and horses. Reindeer have 34 teeth total, compared to 32 teeth in people.
A: Reindeer are used to cold weather, and actually prefer it, but even reindeer need protection from the elements at the North Pole. They get to live in a cozy barn during the coldest weather. When they’re not in training for the sleigh pull, they get to spend time in a top-secret pasture area in a (slightly) warmer climate, where they get to have fun and graze on grass.
A: Reindeer can sleep any time of the day, but Santa’s reindeer generally sleep at night so they can train during the day – after all, they need to stay in shape to pull the sleigh for that long ride on Christmas Eve! As their special trip gets closer, their schedules are altered so they can be as rested as possible. Santa definitely makes sure that his reindeer are healthy and 100% ready and able to make that long flight.
A: My primary duty is to make sure the reindeer are healthy throughout the year. Here are some of the things I do:
- I examine the reindeer about a month before the scheduled flight to make sure that they’re healthy and that they’re not showing any signs of disease or other problems. It’s important that they don’t have any diseases they could give to other animals during their trip around the world, and they need to be healthy so they’re less likely to catch any diseases themselves on that flight.
- Once I’ve made sure they’re healthy, I fill out health certificates for the reindeer to make sure that Santa can legally fly them into the countries around the world and to prevent any unnecessary delays. The last thing we want is Santa getting stopped at a border, right?
- Right before the trip, I give them a once-over again to make sure their feet and legs are healthy enough to take off and land on the rooftops and that they’re still healthy and ready to go. I also do a nose-check on Rudolph to make sure he’s ready to light up in case it’s needed.
- During the trip, I’m on call in case there are any problems or emergencies that arise. Thankfully, Santa takes such good care of them that this has never happened.
- Once they’ve completed their trip and returned to their home base, I give each one of them a good exam to make sure they didn’t get any injuries and that they’re not dehydrated or weak. I then help the elves feed the reindeer their post-trip treats and food and get them settled into their comfy stalls so they can rest.
- In the spring and summer, I check up on them and give them the vaccines they need, as well as do any blood tests that are necessary.