What is Reindeer Husbandry?

What is a reindeer?

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) belongs to the species Cervidae. The species is a natural part of Northern ecosystems and is resident in the northern parts of Europe, Asia and North America. The reindeer has several sub-species of which one of them is Caribou. Reindeer are also divided into mountain reindeer and forest reindeer. There are 7 different sub-species of Rangifer tarandus and some of them called reindeer and some caribou:

Rangifer tarandus tarandus – Eurasian tundra reindeer

R. t. platyrhynchus – Svalbard reindeer

R. t. fennicus – Eurasian forest reindeer

R. t. granti – Alaskan caribou

R. t. caribou – Woodland caribou

R. t.groenlandicus – Barren-ground caribou

R.t. pearyi – Peary caribou

Mountain reindeer migrate between summer and winter pastures while forest reindeer graze in the woodlands throughout the year.


What is reindeer herding?

Reindeer herding is when reindeer are herded by people in a limited area. Currrently, reindeer are the only semi-domesticated animal which naturally belongs to the north. Reindeer herding is conducted in 9 countries; Norway, Finland, Sweden, Russia, Greenland, Alaska, Mongolia, China and Canada. A small herd is also maintained in Scotland. There are about 30 reindeer herding peoples in the world and 3,4 million semi-domesticated reindeer. The intimate connection between humans and animals is perhaps best embodied by this relationship as reindeer husbandry represents a connection ancient in origin and practiced almost identically wherever it is found.

Climate and environment have always determined the conditions by which reindeer herding is practiced, and since the development of nation states, various regulatory bodies have evolved that determine many aspects of how reindeer herding is practiced. As a result, although the practice of reindeer husbandry has more similarities than differences, the management regimes they operate under are quite different. Reindeer herding has since time immemorial been of economic importance for reindeer herding peoples. Reindeer herding creates a lot of employment and reindeer meat is in great demand, most particularly in Scandinavia. However the importance of the livelihood goes beyond mere employment. Reindeer herding has also always been important both culturally and socially and is a vigorous and central part of many indigenous peoples’ cultures. Reindeer can be owned by both individuals and nation states. In Scandinavia for example only individuals can own reindeer whereas in Russia the state owns the majority of reindeer.

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