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"Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen! On Comet! On Cupid! On Donder and Blitzen!

That's Santa Claus, urging the world's most famous reindeer team into the sky on Christmas Eve. In the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," those flying reindeer pull Santa's sleigh from the North Pole to every house in the world.

Most reindeer don't live at the North Pole. They don't fly, either. But they are fast runners and powerful swimmers. And even if they aren't as magical as Rudolf, they're still amazing animals.

The Lapps also used reindeer to pull their sleds. At Easter, the still hold reindeer races. The Lapps even invented a sport called ski joring, in which a skier is pulled along behind a speeding reindeer!

Thousands of reindeer live in Lapland. Lapland is in Northern Europe. The people who live in Lapland are called Lapps. For centuries, Lapps have herded reindeer. They once depended on them for food, milk, and clothing.

Winter days in Lapland are icy cold. The sun shines for only a few hours. But the beautiful aurora borealis (also called the northern lights) brightens the sky for several winter nights.

Reindeer use their unusual antlers as small snowplows! They push the snow away from the ground so they can eat the moss that grows there. They also protect themselves from wolves and fight one another with their antlers.

Santa's reindeer were first mentioned in a book in 1821. Until then, most stories said the sleigh was pulled by a horse or a donkey.

Some pictures from before 1800 show Santa riding on a goat!

Reindeer are the only type of deer whose females have antlers.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Children's Better Health Institute
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:facts
Publication:U.S. Kids
Date:Dec 1, 1997
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