Once they have travelled around the country to meet children and their families throughout December, the herd will then of course be doing their most important job - helping Santa to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.
“Beautiful calming animals”
The herd, which is the UK’s only free ranging reindeers, lives at the Cairngorms National Park, the largest park in the UK which is situated in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Here, the snowy, arctic, conditions provide the best vegetation for the reindeers.
The first reindeer were brought over from Swedish Lapland in 1952 by Mikel Utsi and his wife Doctor Ethel Lindgren as an experiment, and have grazed the land ever since.
Tilly Smith, owner of the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre which looks after the herd, said: “The Cairngorms is ideal for the reindeer. We’re centrally positioned within the highlands which means we have a more continental climate. We’re more likely to have cold, snowy, arctic like conditions which provide the best vegetation.Our mountains, although vast and impressive, are also gentle which suits the reindeer as they aren’t the most nimble.”
Mark Tate, CEO of VisitCairngorms said: “The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd are a firm favourite among our winter visitors and it’s easy to see why. They are beautiful, calming animals and add to the magical winter wonderland feel that really does make winter come to life in the Cairngorms National Park. Tilly and her team have done a wonderful job nurturing the herd over the years. It’s thanks to the really special environment we have here in the Cairngorms that they’ve thrived and grown.”
Very rare animals
White reindeer are extremely rare, and said to be a symbol of happiness to the indigenous people of northern Europe. White reindeer are uncommon, making up less than 1% of the deer population, and are also known as leucistic deer. Leucistic deer are not a separate species of deer and any type of deer can be leucistic. A genetic mutation that causes a lack of pigment production causes leucism.
Other kinds of animals, such as squirrels, cats, and horses, can also be leucistic. Most leucistic animals have only partial leucism. This means that only parts of their skin or fur lack pigmentation. For example, a partially leucistic deer may have white spots on an otherwise normal coat. Completely white deer with leucism are rarer and these animals have fully white coats.
There are currently around 150 reindeer, including the white ones, in the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd. They mostly range on the Cairngorm Mountains with the remainder on the Glenlivet Estate, the locations being some 30 miles apart.
Visitors are welcome to visit the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre all throughout the year and there is a daily guided hill trip to see the reindeer. During the winter, the trip may be dependent on whether staff can find the herd as they roam freely and may not be as easy to locate. The reindeer are tame, however, and like being visited by the public.
During the December tour of the UK, each individual reindeer will only do a couple of weeks of work before returning back to their mountain home, so every reindeer gets a chance to meet the public but also has a good rest before Christmas too.
For more information about the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd and where you can see them this December, and beyond, please visit the official Cairngorm Reindeer Herd website.