Northern lights and wild reindeer on the tundra in Norway
© Anton Petrus/Getty Image
Running late guys?. Hoofing it in the Arctic
Reindeer are built to live in freezing Arctic regions like northern Norway, where this herd was photographed under the swirl of the aurora borealis, or northern lights. Reindeer have evolved unique features that help them to thrive in harsh environments. Their noses warm the air they breathe before it enters their lungs, which helps to maintain a steady body temperature. And most of their bodies, including their hooves, are covered with thick, dense fur to keep them well insulated.
Reindeer were introduced to Christmas lore in 1823 with the poem A Visit from St Nicholas, also known as The Night Before Christmas. Written by Clement Clarke Moore, the verses paint a picture of Father Christmas and his sleigh, driven by eight flying reindeer - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. In 1939, Rudolph was added to Santa's squad when Robert L May wrote a story about the red-nosed misfit for the US department store Montgomery Ward, as part of a Christmas promotion.
The famous reindeer are often referred to as males (with the exception maybe of Vixen), but as the animals are typically depicted with their antlers intact, it is more likely they're female. Male reindeer shed their antlers at the end of the mating season in early December.