REINDEER

A way of life of the Sámi, and remarkably adaptable animals.

Occasionally pulling sleighs

Reindeer are abundant on the Nordkyn Peninsula in the summer months.

Spotting reindeer

Reindeer husbandry has been a way of life for the Sámi population in Finnmark since the 17th century.

In the month of April, the Sami herders move their reindeer from the inland to the coast, where they have their summer pastures.

The calves are born in May, and while they are very young the herds tend to stay away from roads and populated areas. But the Nordkyn reindeer population reaches over 5000 in the summer, and during this time they roam in small herds all over the peninsula - often visible from the roads.

There are also Sámi culture tours available where you can get acquainted with the reindeer, and even try lassoing their antlers!

In September/October, the Sami round up the herds and start the trek toward winter pastures close to the Finnish border, a trip of about 200km (130 miles).

Reindeer trivia

  • Male reindeer shed their antlers each winter, while the females shed theirs in spring.
  • Reindeer mainly eat lichens and moss, but also leaves and grass.
  • Sami languages have around 400 words describing reindeer and reindeer husbandry.
  • Even a twenty-pound, newborn reindeer fawn (calf) can outrun the average human.
  • Reindeer hooves adapt to the season, shrinking and hardening to better cut into snow and ice during winter.
  • Reindeer are used for their meat, hide, antlers and sometimes also milk and transportation (yes, it is possible to fit a sleigh to a reindeer team).
  • Reindeer have eyes that change colour from gold to blue over the course of the year. The gold colour in summer reflects back most of the light whereas in winter the blue colour makes their eyes more sensitive to limited winter light.