Santa has a herd of around 100 reindeer. Most of them can fly but some cannot. Everyone at the North Pole loves them anyway.
Santa’s reindeer are 7 to 7-1/2 feet long and most weigh up to 450 pounds. Their backs are about four feet above the ground and the tips of their antlers can reach almost 8 feet high. They run very fast. In fact, a reindeer calf, only one day old, can already outrun a man.
It is their ability to run fast that helps them fly. Although most reindeer cannot fly, Santa uses a combination of science and Christmas magic to help his reindeer fly about 650 miles per minute.
Normally reindeer lose their antlers in the winter and then grow new ones. But Santa's reindeer keep their antlers all winter long and that is part of the secret of how they fly. The antlers work like the wings of an airplane, disrupting the air when they run fast and helping them to leave the ground.
One of the favorite foods of reindeer is the wild flowers that only grow for a few weeks in the middle of summer at the North Pole. Their second favorite food is carrots. However, that is a problem as their stomachs aren’t built to digest carrots. Carrots give reindeer “gas.”
If children want to leave a snack for the reindeer on Christmas Eve, celery, oatmeal, crackers or “Reindeer Food” work well. If you must leave carrots, please break them into small pieces so they can be more easily digested.
Reindeer hooves are very unique -- they adapt to the season: in the summer, when the tundra is soft and wet, their footpads become sponge–like and provide extra traction. In the winter, their pads shrink and tighten, exposing the rim of the hoof, which cuts into the ice and crusted snow to keep it from slipping. This also enables them to dig down through the snow to their favorite food, a lichen known as reindeer moss.
Reindeer are thought to be the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light. A study conducted by researchers from the University College London in 2011 revealed that reindeer can see light with wavelengths as low as 320 nm, considerably below the human threshold of 400 nm. It is thought that this ability helps them to survive in the Arctic, because many objects that blend into the landscape in normally visible light produce sharp contrasts in ultraviolet.
Yes, Rudolph does have a red nose. It doesn't look very bright in his picture, but when it gets dark, it really is very bright. Several years ago scientists measured the brightness of Rudolph’s nose and found it is as bright as 10 lighthouses.
Rudolph has a special stall in the barn that is lined with black cloth to keep his red nose from keeping everyone awake at night.
Rudolph also has built–in GPS and never gets lost. This is very helpful to Santa. While traveling to or from the North Pole, Santa can tell Rudolph where to go and then Santa takes a nap.
Dasher is the fastest reindeer in the herd. That's why he is always in front right behind Rudolph. When all the others start slowing down, Dasher keeps us going fast.
Dancer is like a ballet dancer or an Olympic gymnast. When he lands he plants all four hooves and never slips or slides. That's important when we are trying to land on a small or icy roof.
Prancer just loves to prance around —a combination of dancing, running and jumping. It is kind of crazy but she enjoys doing it. It is also fun to watch her prance around the North Pole in the snow.
One meaning for the word "Vixen" is "a cute little girl" and that's Vixen. She is just darling and cute. She is also the smallest reindeer in the team. Of course, being a reindeer, she is still pretty big and strong.
Comet is named for the comets that race across the sky. She is almost as fast as Dasher and so she is in the middle of the team to help keep our speed up.
Cupid is the LOVE reindeer. She just loves everybody and she likes to snuggle. Much of the year she has a large, beautiful set of antlers.
Can you imagine what happens when you snuggle with a 350–pound reindeer with a full set of antlers? Those antlers have snagged and ruined many sweaters and coats. But everyone loves her anyway.
Donner (sometimes called Donder) and Blitzen's names come from Holland and mean "Thunder" and "Lightning". They are two of the biggest, strongest reindeer you have ever seen. They each weigh about 550 pounds.
Donner and Blitzen are always the last two reindeer in the team so that when the other reindeer start getting tired, Donner and Blitzen are still going strong and helping us deliver all of the presents on time.