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Reindeer

Reindeer mounted specimen

Latin name 'Rangifer tarandus'

Reindeer are found in tundra regions of Europe, Asia and America, where they live in large herds which may migrate to forested areas for the summer. A domesticated herd lives in the Cairngorms of Scotland. They are well adapted to their environment, having broad hooves which prevent them from sinking into wet ground, and dense fur which covers the entire animal (even the nose). They feed mainly on moss and lichen but also eat leaves, shoots and fungus. Reindeer are unique amongst deer in that both male and female have antlers.

Christmas links

The practice of Father Christmas delivering presents dates back to the mid 19th century. As the custom spread, along with the need to distribute more presents, it became necessary to have some form of transport. Since his journey began at the North Pole, a land of snow and ice, a reindeer-drawn sleigh was seen as most suitable.

It has been suggested that the image of Father Christmas may be compared to the Norse god, Odin, who on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir was able to travel through the air over land and sea. Odin was also reputed to have worn a long cloak to enable him to come to earth in disguise to distribute money and food to the needy. It was perhaps this legend that inspired Clement Moore to write the poem ‘The Night before Christmas’, which told of a stranger who flew across the sky bringing gifts in a sleigh, not drawn by an eight-legged horse but by eight reindeer.

World Museum's reindeer

This reindeer mounted specimen was obtained in 1975 for the Arctic diorama in Liverpool Museum (the former name of World Museum|), where it was displayed until 1998. In 2006-2007 it was included in an installation by John Armleder at Tate Liverpool|. It is currently in storage.

Accession number 1990.102.78