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CBN.com It is Christmas time, and that means Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and reindeer. A lot of mystery surrounds these sleigh animals, so we came all the way to Iron Station, North Carolina, to find out the truth about Santa’s little helpers.
Why go to North Carolina to talk about reindeer? Bill Kline grows and sells Christmas trees on his own Cedar Lake Tree Farm just north of Charlotte. Along with other critters like turkeys, cows, and a bull named Fred, he also has two reindeer, Dancer and Prancer.
Yes, reindeer are real. Bill has to tell people all of the time.
"I get questions like you really wouldn’t believe," Bill explains, "but the best one is, how do you tie those horns on his head?"
Reindeer are native to regions in the Arctic Circle like Alaska and Greenland. They are the same species as the North American caribou. The difference is reindeer are domesticated and have been for thousands of years. Today, native peoples, like the Lapps in Scandinavia, still follow the herds. They depend on them for food, fur, and, you may have guessed, transportation in the form of pulling sleds.
"They put all their belongings on sleds and have about six to eight teams of reindeer and just move from area to area with the reindeer," says Bill.
Their hooves are wider than the average deer. That helps them move quite well across packed ice and snow. (It also helps when pulling Santa’s sleigh). And they are fast. They can travel up to 70 miles in one day. Unlike other deer, both the male and female reindeer grow horns that they shed once a year.
A set of horns is called a rack, or what we typically call antlers. A reindeer might use those antlers to dig into the snow to get to the grass underneath, as a means of self-protection, or for a good scratch.
And for male reindeer, those antlers are a good display for the females.
"If a smaller bull would come around and try to nudge his way into the herd or something, those horns would be enough to intimidate the bull enough to leave or leave the others alone," says Bill.
As domestic as they may be, there are some hazards to working with reindeer.
"During the breeding season, you really have to keep an eye on them," says Bill. "They are really protective of their females."
But there’s one thing kids always want to know: Do reindeer really know how to fly?
"They ask me if they fly," says Bill, "and I tell them, 'They only fly one time a year. hey come back and they’re just super tired.' They say, 'Really?' I say, 'If you don’t believe me, just come back later and they’ll be lying around. They’ll be lying around the next day.' "
Believe what you will, but this Christmas Eve, children around the world will be watching and listening for jingle bells, a ho, ho, ho, and the sound of eight tiny reindeer.
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