Rudolph is the most famous reindeer of them all, with his bright red nose guiding Santa’s sleigh. But the adorable Rudy is not alone when it comes to pulling Father Christmas’s present-laden sleigh from the North Pole around the globe each year.
Everyone knows the song: There’s Dasher and Dancer... and someone at a canter, in John Lewis or Dixons, oh... wait, maybe not. Though it’s a well known Christmas jingle, it’s so easy to lose track of how many festive friends are with Rudolph on the job - and their names - but not this time around…
How many reindeer does Santa have?
Including Rudolph, Santa has nine reindeer in total pulling his sleigh through the night’s sky on Christmas Eve. In the beginning, there was only one reindeer pictured pulling Santa’s sleigh across eight illustrations in the 1821 poem Old Santeclaus with Much Delight.
The eight illustrations perhaps lead to the eight reindeer listed in Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, now known as ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. There have been several variations over time, including a L. Frank Baum’s story The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, which featured 10 reindeer - all of different names.
But it is the eight reindeer and their names from ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas which has proved most popular over the years, and the most recognisable around the world.
What are the reindeer names?
From ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, the eight reindeer are named: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen. The names have been adapted over time, with the final two originally known as Dunder and Blixem, which is Dutch for thunder and lightning.
These two names evolved to Donder and Blitzen before the former became Donner in the early 20th Century, well after the original author had died.
When was Rudolph introduced?
Rudolph is often seen as the youngest of the reindeer fleet, with his bright red nose leading the way through the harsh winter weather. Though his luminous hooter is a point of ridicule among his reindeer peers, he is quickly accepted when he embraces his unique gifts.
He first appeared in 1939 in a booklet designed to entertain children entering the US department store Montgomery Ward, based in Chicago.
Rudolph’s story was created by Robert L. May who was inspired by the thick fog out of his office window in downtown Chicago. Montgomery Ward distributed 2.4 million copies of Rudolph’s story in its first year and it has been adapted for TV shorts, songs, cartoons and even a film.
Who sang Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?
Gene Autry released the first version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, hitting top spot in the US charts at Christmas 1949. Bing Crosby and The Temptations are two other notable performers of the song, which proves popular on any kids’ festive playlist.
In 1959, Chuck Berry released a sequel to the original called Run Run Rudolph, which features in the 1990 festive film Home Alone.