Reindeer has come to be associated with
the Christmas riding the tradition of the Santa Claus. As Santa
is believed to come from the far away North, what else than a
reindeer drawn sledge can serve as a functional carriage?
It is man's most ancient herd animal, the
first animals being raised around 15,000 years ago. Up until
about 12,000 years ago, reindeer grazed over a vast area of
Europe. Rock paintings by primitive peoples featuring them are
widespread, as are discoveries of tools made from reindeer
horn. there was even a period of European prehistory in a part
of France called Dordogne that is sometimes called "the
civilization of reindeer." The only surviving part of such a
civilization might be found in Lapland, which is the northern
part of Norway, Sweden and Finland. There are only a few
thousand Lapps, but they own herds of many thousands of
reindeer. From them the Lapps obtain meat, milk, hair for
weaving, hides to make tents and clothing, and horn, from which
they make households. They are strong animals, and are also used to pull heavily laden
sleds. It is all these multiple uses that have made reindeer so
endearing to people in the North.
Caribou, the name by which the Americans are more familiar with
reindeer, comes from an Indian word.