What is Reindeer Husbandry?


What is the difference between reindeer herding and reindeer husbandry?

The term ‘Reindeer herding’ is about how the work of reindeer herding is organized and how practical reindeer herding tasks are carried out. Reindeer husbandry concerns a wider aspect than reindeer herding as it includes both the practical work with reindeer but also the whole reindeer herding industry, biology, science, management, and even hunting and fishing in areas where they are a part of reindeer herding rights. In other words reindeer herding is an older concept and focuses only on the work with reindeer while reindeer husbandry focuses more on the transformation of reindeer herding into an economically, socially and biologically sustainable industry.


Who conducts reindeer herding?

Reindeer herding is conducted by individuals within some kind of cooperation, in forms such as as families, districts, Sámi villages and sovkhozy (collective farms). A person who conducts reindeer herding is called a reindeer herder and approximately 100,000 people are engaged in reindeer herding today around the circumpolar North.

How long has reindeer herding existed?

Current archaeological evidence (cave paintings) seems to suggest that the domestication of reindeer emerged perhaps 2-3 000 years ago and that connection between human and reindeer, foremost in form of hunting, is a great deal older.

How is reindeer herding organized?

Every country where reindeer herding is conducted has regulations which state how reindeer herding is to be organized. Norway, Sweden and Finland for example have specific reindeer herding legislation which handles districts, Sámi villages and individuals rights and duties but also how external interests should be take into account when reindeer herding is impacted. The are wide variations in legislation related to reindeer husbandry in all countries where it is praticed. Reindeer herding can usefully be divided into tundra region and taiga region reindeer herding. ‘Tundra’ refers to long migrations between winter and summer pastures.

In the summer reindeer and herders migrate to coastal or mountain areas to flee insects and access better pastures. Winter pastures are primarily located in the interior where the climate is more stable and where lichens are found. Tundra herds tend to be large, up to several thousand and migration routes are long, often many hundreds of kilometres. In recent history, tundra reindeer herding has a focus on meat production. Taiga reindeer husbandry is geographically widespread, is characterised by smaller herds and much shorter migration routes in forested or mountainous areas. Animals are primarily used for transportation and milk production. In both tundra and taiga reindeer husbandry, reindeer provide food, clothing, shelter and transportation.

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