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Reindeer in Scotland

Everything You Need to Know About Scotland's Reindeer

Posted on 15 Dec 2017

We have over 50 tour buses in the Rabbie’s fleet. Over 50 mini-coaches, that all look alike.

And sometimes, you find more than one Rabbie’s bus in the same place. So, how can you tell them apart when even the drivers get their buses mixed up?

Well, some drivers have a cunning solution: mascots!

And here’s mine:

His name is Rupert, Rupert the Rabbie’s Reindeer. He sits in my window and helps my passengers and me find the right bus after we’ve been exploring. He’s even got his own wee uniform.

But why a reindeer? Well, did you know that Scotland is home to Britain’s only free-ranging herd of reindeer. And they live in The Cairngorm National Park, one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland.

But why are they the only free-ranging herd? Well, reindeer were once completely native to Scotland, and found over a much larger range. However, they became extinct hundreds of years ago, likely due to a mixture of natural climate change and over hunting.

In modern times, the Cairngorm Mountain range is one of the only places in the UK that is a suitable habitat for reindeer to thrive. With its high mountain plateaus and cold winter weather, it’s perfect for the reindeer.

The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd was first re-introduced to Scotland in 1952, by Mikel Utsi, a Swedish Sami man who came here on his honeymoon, and saw potential to bring reindeer back to Scotland. He saw many similarities between his home in Sweden and the Cairngorm Mountains and brought a small herd of reindeer over as an experiment.

Over 60 years later, the herd has gone from strength to strength and now stands at over 150 animals.

Five Reindeer facts

- Reindeer are the only species of deer in which both the males and the females grow antlers. The antlers that drop off and grow again every year are made of bone, and can grow as fast as 2 inches a week!

- Reindeer have furry noses, not wet like other animals. This keeps them warm while they’re digging down through the snow to find food. They also have hair under their feet between their hooves, and right inside their ears!

- A reindeer’s favourite food is Lichen. A symbiotic species of algae and fungi. Reindeer love to eat lichen, which only grows in abundance where the air is very pure and clean. Luckily, the Cairngorm National Park has loads of good clean air, so the lichen grows well for the reindeer to munch on!

- Reindeer are perfectly adapted for the cold, in fact, they prefer it. Which is why living high up in the Cairngorm mountains is perfect for them. They have super thick fur coats with hollow hair to insulate them from the cold. In fact, they can have a wee snooze on the snow and not melt it. Big wide feet stop them from sinking in deep snow. And a clicking sound made by the feet of each animal, means they can find each other in a blizzard by sound, even if they can’t see each other!

- Reindeer are particularly busy in December, when Father Christmas has plenty of work for them! Reindeer were domesticated thousands of years ago as beasts of burden, and are quite happy to pull a sleigh, especially one full of presents!

- Reindeer truly are wonderful animals, which is why I have Rupert the Reindeer as my mascot. Maybe you’ll meet them yourself one day if you join one of our tours into the mountains of the Cairngorm National Park.

To find out more about the Cairngorm reindeer, visit www.cairngormreindeer.co.uk.

Heather is a proud Rabbie’s driver-guide and takes passengers on her enthusiastic tours from our departure point in Inverness.

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