Reindeer herding is a solid part of everyday life for my family here in Hossa. This traditional source of livelihood has passed down from one generation to another and recently it has started to receive a whole lot of attention for its merits as the world´s most ethical and sustainable meat production. In Eurasia people long ago began to tame wild caribou and reindeer husbandry was born. It is speculated that initially hunters learned that tamed deer on a leash could help them sneak closer to wild herds. Later tame animals were used to pull sleds, and in some cultures they were saddled and ridden. Eventually people kept herds as a dependable source of food, hides and transport.
In this area, reindeer husbandry is a Sami heritage; at the time when permanent settlement spread to Hossa from the south in the 1700s, there were Sámi inhabitants in the area who kept a small number of reindeer and this is how the new settlers also acquired reindeer herding as part of their lives.
These semi-domesticated animals have their own spacious pen where they spend their, I guess you could say “winter holidays”. Reindeers are kept in the corral during the coldest part of the year, for the time when the food supply is at its worst due to the heavy covers of snow. Usually this period takes about four to five months, from December to May but it depends on the weather. This way they are kept in good condition and safe from the predators that stalk them in the wilderness; lynxes, wolves and wolverines are a constant threat. At other times they roam free in the wilderness and during the worst mosquito period, they withdraw into the low sheds built to protect them from mosquitoes and other blood-sucking insects. In early winter, the reindeer are gathered into a roundup pen for the earmarking of calves and for slaughter.
For the inexperienced eye, all of the reindeer look the same. In reality, they differ from each other not only externally but also temperamentally. Some of them are constantly poking each other with their antlers and being in the middle of every hassle while the others have more easy-going approach. Both sexes grow antlers that in males serve as sexual ornaments and weapons for fighting rivals during the breeding season. This is also the reason why antlers are exported in large amounts to Asia where natural medicine is very much alive and kicking, to enhance “male fitness”.
Staying at the Reindeer Lodge and providing you with the chance of taking care of our small herd of reindeers is a solid part of our local small-scale business.