A symbol of Lapland

Reindeer are wholly synonymous with Lapland and are very much a part of the history, culture and tradition of the region. Excavations here have revealed hunting pits and stone carvings which highlight that reindeer have been herded here since the Stone Age.

Herding and reindeer husbandry are primarily roles occupied by the Sámi people, the indigenous people of Lapland, with the animals raised for their meat, hide and antlers.

The practice of herding has been updated to fit with a more modern Lapland but herding would not be possible without the maintenance of traditional knowledge and skills that are passed from generation to generation.

During your visit to Lapland, experiencing a day with a reindeer herder and their animals is a brilliant way to gain an insight into life here. During some of the activities, you will also be able to try your hand at some of the reindeer herding practices including feeding the animals and lassoing.

Scroll to learn more about the reindeers of Lapland.

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The animals

There are over 500,000 reindeer in Lapland. Whilst they are technically livestock they generally roam freely, migrating throughout the seasons from coastal regions to more mountainous inland areas. The Sámi calendars are based on the reindeer patterns of migration and breeding.

Reindeer are generally placid animals with a naturally curious, yet timid disposition. They have adapted and evolved to suit their harsh Arctic environment and thrive in this extreme climate. This is particularly evident in their large hooves which help them to walk in the deep snow and their thick insulating coat. This consists of a dense woolly undercoat and a longer-haired overcoat of hollow air-filled hairs which trap the heat inside.

Their hooves also have sharp rims which can cut through ice and hard snow and stops them from slipping and allows them to reach through the thick layer of snow in the winter to eat the lichen underneath.

Reindeer are the only member of the deer family where both the males and females have antlers and on the males, these can grow to be up to one metre in width.

Sámi herders

Our reindeer experiences have been carefully designed to give our visitors a valuable insight into the practice of reindeer herding, allowing you to spend time with the herders and their animals.

Reindeer excursions are always popular on our trips, both for those looking to gain more of a cultural and historical insight and for those drawn by the ‘magic’ of these creatures who are so associated with Christmas and cherished childhood memories.

Some of the most popular reindeer excursions are our experiences which we offer in Menesjärvi and Inari which allow you to spend the morning with a reindeer herder.

This is a wonderfully genuine and traditional experience and gives you the chance to see first-hand what a regular day as a reindeer herder is like. During your time with them, you will meet the herd, help feed them and see them up close. The herders are always readily available to answer any questions you may have and are keen to share stories of their livelihood and family history with you.

Sleigh rides are also included on a lot of our excursions, which is a fun and gentle way to travel through your surroundings. Reindeer travel at a much more laid-back pace than huskies, although reindeer racing is a popular activity in Scandinavia with reindeer being able to reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour!