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Reindeer culture

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The origins of today's reindeer herding can be traced to the hunting of wild reindeer some 1000 years before Christ. During the 1500s, entire herds were domesticated and the Saami became reindeer-raising nomads. Presently, about 10 percent of the Saami people are engaged in reindeer herding. Despite the use of technical aids like radio communications and snowmobiles, this occupation is still adapted to the herd's annual cycles. The Saami divide these cycles in to eight seasons.

The eight seasons of reindeer herding

  • Springwinter

Pregnant females cause the herd to leave the forests and journey to the mountains.

  • Spring

Snow melts while the reindeer calves are born in the foothills.

  • Presummer

A calm period for the herders while the animals graze on the fresh growth.

  • Summer

Under the light of the midnight sun, herders mark their new-born calves.

Marking of new-born calves.


Infångning av rentjurar
  • Preautumn

Bull reindeer, fat from the summer, are sorted for slaughter.


  • Autumn

Herders fish for food while the bull reindeer mate with the cows in estrus.

  • Prewinter

The herd travels out of the frost-covered mountains into marshlands where green growth is still available.

Reindeer herd


Same på skoter
  • Winter

After dividing the herd, the Saami families move the reindeer to the forest where winter fodder is more accessible.



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