The excitement of seeing live reindeer has been an event familiar to Eagle Mountain residents attending the City’s Christmas Village event held on the first Saturday in December.
Reindeer, also known as caribou, are not native to the area, but Utah does have a herd residing in Spanish Fork. There are currently seven in the herd – one male (bull) and six females (cows).
Five of those females are currently expecting young this coming spring.
Aurora Ventures, LLC is a family-owned business, owned by Matt and Elisha Shadle and their family.
“Having a live Christmas tree sales business, I wanted to add a new and interesting dimension by having live reindeer on the tree lot to bring in more business. That was back in 2001,” says Matt Shadle. “We rented some reindeer that year, but the following year we obtained one of the first USDA licenses for reindeer in the state of Utah and began obtaining the reindeer that now make up our very own herd.”
The Shadle family bring some of their reindeer herd to Eagle Mountain’s Christmas Village event each year.
Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) are members of the deer family. In Europe, they are called reindeer. In North America the animals are called caribou if they are wild and reindeer if they are domesticated.
Both male and female reindeer grow antlers, while in most other deer species, only the males have antlers.
Compared to their body size, reindeer have the largest and heaviest antlers of all living deer species. A male’s antlers can be up to 51 inches long, and a female’s antlers can reach 20 inches.
Unlike horns, antlers fall off and grow back larger each year. Male reindeer begin to grow antlers in February and female reindeer in May.
Both sexes finish growing their antlers at the same time but shed them at different times of the year. Males drop their antlers in November, leaving them without antlers until the following spring, while females keep their antlers through the winter until their calves are born in the spring.
Santa’s reindeer were first mentioned in 1821 when New York printer William Gilley published a 16-page booklet titled A New Year’s Present to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve, Part III by an anonymous author:
Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night.
O’er chimney tops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.
Two years later, in 1823, the Troy Sentinel published the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. The poem featured eight flying reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh, and for the first time, they are identified by name.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer began guiding Santa’s sleigh in 1939, when Robert L. May wrote the story of “the most famous reindeer of all” as a Christmas coloring book for his employer, the department store Montgomery Ward. The company gave away the coloring books as holiday gifts to children to entice their parents to visit and shop at the store.
In 1948, May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made the story into a song. It was featured in a cartoon shown in movie theaters but wasn’t released as a stand-alone recording until 1949 when “The Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry recorded the song and its popularity soared. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is one of the biggest-selling Christmas songs of all time.
Eagle Mountain City encourages residents to stop by the Shadle family’s live reindeer display at Christmas Village.
The event will be held at Cory Wride Memorial Park on Saturday, Dec. 3 from Noon – 4 p.m.