Santa Claus’ Reindeer

21 February 2022. By Santa's Little Helper

When you think of Santa and his sleigh, his reindeer always spring to mind. They are vital in pulling Santa’s sleigh; the sleigh wouldn’t move without them. Santa would not be able to deliver his presents. Disaster!

However, can we name all of them? Everyone knows the name of the famous, red-nosed reindeer Rudolph but what about the rest?

What are the names of all the reindeer? Do they have different personalities? Let’s look at all of Santa Claus’ reindeer.

How many reindeer does Santa Claus have?

One of the most asked questions around Christmas time, how many reindeer does Santa have?! Santa has a total of nine reindeer. Santa’s reindeer names are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph.

Donner and Blitzen’s names have also appeared slightly different in stories throughout the years. Donner has also been called Donder and Dunder. At the same time, Blitzen can also sometimes appear as Blixem. Their names come from the Dutch words for thunder and lightning.

Why does Santa have reindeer pulling his sleigh?

They are the perfect companions for Santa at his home in the North Pole. When living in the North Pole, parts of their hooves can grow or shrink depending on the season. When it is winter and very cold, the pads on their feet become smaller showing more of the rim of the hoof. The pads on their feet provide lots of grip, so it stops the reindeer from slipping when it is icy. Their hooves are shaped like shovels to enable them to shovel snow out of the way to get to food.

Reindeer are also renowned for their speed over a long distance in any weather. They have speed and stamina that makes them reliable to pull the sleigh on Christmas Eve to help deliver all of Santa’s presents.

When were Santa’s reindeer first introduced?

The long history of Santa originates from the legend of St Nicholas, who lived in Myra in the 4th Century. It was not until the 19th Century that the first eight reindeer were introduced.

In 1821, an illustrated children’s poem by an unknown author made the reindeer the animal companion of Santa. However, at this point, no names were mentioned.

It was not until the release of Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem in 1823, ‘A visit from St Nicholas’ also known as ‘Twas the Night before Christmas’, that the reindeer were mentioned by name. Before the release of this poem, the idea of reindeer pulling a sleigh for Santa had never been mentioned.

‘When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.’

Then in the poem, the names of Santa’s reindeer are called out, as Santa wanted to fly away to the next house to deliver presents.

‘Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!’

Why are there only eight reindeer? 

The most famous reindeer of all, Santa’s ninth reindeer, Rudolph, was not introduced until the 20th Century.

When was Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer first introduced?

In 1939 the story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was released. It was written by Robert L May and published by the department store Montgomery Ward. 

Montgomery Ward handed out the story as a colouring book for children during the festive period. In the first year alone, 2.4 million copies of this famous story were handed out to customers.

What happens in the story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer?

This festive tale describes how All the other reindeer shunned Rudolph, a little reindeer with a bright red nose. One Christmas Eve, it became incredibly snowy, Santa Claus and the other reindeer pulling his sleigh couldn’t see the way. The weather was making it very difficult for them to deliver presents to children all over the world.

However, Rudolph saved the day! In front of the other reindeer, his bright red nose acted as a guiding light, and he led Santa’s team of reindeer. This enabled Santa to deliver all his presents, ready for Christmas Day. As Rudolph had saved Christmas, he was finally accepted by all the other reindeer.

Why is Rudolph more famous than the other reindeer?

Not only was May’s book published by Montgomery Ward as a colouring booklet, but a year later, the publishing house Maxwell Publishing Co. printed it in a hardcover, and it became a best seller.

Rudolph’s popularity continued to soar. In 1949 the song ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’ was released. This famous Rudolph song became Christmas number one in the US. In 1964, Rudolph’s tale was immortalised as a stop motion animated TV series. His tale has been adapted into numerous other Christmas tales and movies throughout the years.

Do all of Santa’s reindeer have different personalities?

Yes! Just like people, all the different reindeer have different personalities.

  • Dasher is the speed demon of the reindeer herd. He loves to go fast. He is one of the fastest reindeer. His name ‘Dasher’ originally comes from the German word ‘Dascher’, meaning purse maker. Dasher can sew.
  • Dancer, just like his name suggests, loves to dance! He loves a range of different dancing styles and is one of the biggest extroverts of Santa’s herd.
  • Prancer is a very affectionate reindeer and will do anything for the other reindeer. Prancer loves to look good and can regularly be found prancing around the elves factory.
  • Vixen loves her tricks! Vixen is known for her magic tricks and loves to trick the other reindeer out of their candy. Vixen’s talent is helpful for Santa on Christmas Eve.
  • Comet is calm, kind and a great friend. He has a great talent that children love him. Every year just before Christmas, he heads out with Santa to help him check his list.
  • Cupid loves everyone! She loves to spread the love and help people remember to hug and kiss during the festive period. She just loves to bring people together.
  • Donner can always be heard! His name comes from the word for thunder in German. He has a fantastic talent for singing and loves nothing more than belting out his favourite Christmas hits.
  • Blitzen is as fast as a lightning bolt, and his name even comes from the German for lightning. He loves to work quickly, helping Santa deliver all the presents and, along with Dasher, is one of the fastest reindeer. If Santa needs a burst of speed, Blitzen could shock the rest of the reindeer to help make them move faster.
  • Rudolph is the most self-conscious of all the reindeer and can be shy. His shiny nose, which glows brightly, made him stand out from the rest of the reindeer. Once he led the sleigh on the snowiest of nights that no one could see in, Rudolph became the leader of the reindeer. He loves to play reindeer games with his favourite reindeer.

Are the reindeer male or female?

Are they all male, are they all female, or are Santa’s herd of reindeer a mixture?

When Twas’ a night before Christmas was released, no one was sure about the sex of the reindeer. Even now, it is debatable. Many people believe the herd are a range of sexes. Traditionally though, in many stories, most of the reindeer are male.

However, in recent years scientists from the University of Edinburgh have pointed out that if all of Santa’s reindeer have antlers during Christmas, then they must be female!

Female reindeer are the only type of female deer that grow large antlers as well as male reindeer. The male reindeer then lose their antlers over winter; the female reindeer do not. So that means all of Santa’s team of reindeer, including Rudolph, should be female!

However, these are magical reindeer who fly, so who knows!??

Has Santa had any other reindeer?

There have been many references to different reindeer in pop culture, and they usually have links with the original nine reindeer.

  • Annabelle’s Wish in 1998 was about a young calf who wished to be a reindeer for Santa. Eventually, when she is old, she gets her wish.
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie introduced Rudolph’s mother, Mitzi, who is married to Blitzen. The reindeer Zoey is also presented as Rudolph’s love interest, and his rival for Zoey’s affections is Arrow, who is Cupid’s son.
  • Blizzard from 2003 is a story about Blitzen’s daughter Blizzard.
  • The Santa Claus 2 also introduces a young reindeer called Chet, who is in training to help pull the sleigh. Another reindeer in training was mentioned in Sesame Street who was called Lightning.
  • Robbie, the reindeer, is Rudolph’s son. He also has a special nose that allows him special powers to jump and fly further than most reindeer.
  • Vixen’s husband Frost and daughter Holly were in a Winnie the Pooh Christmas special.
  • The Flight Before Christmas from 2008 was the tale of a wild reindeer called Niko, who ran away to find his father, who happened to be Prancer.
  • Prep and Landing (2009) featured the oversized reindeer, Thrasher. He leads the prep and landing sleigh with the elves that prepare the way for Santa’s main sleigh. Thrasher is the second cousin of Dasher.

Other reindeer have also been mentioned in songs. ‘Leroy the redneck Reindeer’, a song by Joe Diffie, tells the tale of Rudolph’s cousin Leroy who had to take Rudolph’s spot one Christmas Eve when Rudolph was ill.

On Christmas Eve

Santa’s reindeer are incredibly important, and they get tired too pulling his sleigh all over the world. Their hard work enables all the children to receive their Christmas presents. The children should already know if they’re on the naughty or nice list after receiving their santa letters! When you place out your treats for Santa this Christmas, don’t forget some treats for his amazing reindeer too!

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