We all know reindeer pull Santa's sleigh through the sky on Christmas Eve but how many reindeer are there? If you look at pictures, Father Christmas' sleigh team ranges from a scant 2 or 3 to a long line of 9 or more.


So, what is the correct antler-topped headcount? And, Rudolph aside, what are their names? Oh actually, does Rudolph count? Some people say he doesn't – why's that?

If your child's asking questions about the reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh – maybe to make sure that when you're making magical reindeer food for them this Christmas, you're making enough for all of them – then we've got the answers you need...

How many reindeer does Santa have?

There are 9 reindeer altogether, if you include the famously red-nosed Rudolph. For more on Rudolph's claim to a spot on the sleigh team, see Why isn't Rudolph on the original reindeer list?, below.

What are the names of Santa's reindeer?

Their names are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen – and Rudolph.

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Donner is sometimes written as Dunder or Donder, and Blitzen is also spelt Blixen or Blixem.

All the names – apart from Rudolph (see Why isn't Rudolph on the original reindeer list?, below) – originate from a poem, called A Visit from Saint Nicholas. Written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1821, it's probably better known to most of us by its first line: Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Here are the lines that mention the reindeer by name, as Santa calls them whistles and calls them over to his sleigh:

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

What's the correct order for Santa's reindeer?

Well, it depends! Most people line them up in the order they are named in A Visit from Saint Nicholas but when it comes to how they're arranged as a sleigh team, people seem to fall into one of two camps.

The first has them all streaming out in a long single line from Dasher to Dancer to Prancer to Vixen to Comet to Cupid to Donner to Blitzen – with or without Rudolph at the front, depending on your views on Rudolph (see Why isn't Rudolph on the original reindeer list?, below).

The second puts them neatly in 2 rows of 4, with the Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen in the first 4 and Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen in the second 4 – with, if he's included, Rudolph leading the whole group at the front or in a solo spot in the middle of the 2 rows.

Why isn't Rudolph on the original list of Santa’s reindeer?

Rudolph isn't named at all in Clement Clarke Moore's 1821 poem: Twas The Night Before Christmas only names Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.

Rudolph was added as the 9th reindeer over a century later, in 1939, when a young advertising copywriter called Robert L May was asked to create a Christmas story colouring book for a department store to give away to shoppers. May wrote about a reindeer who was teased for having a glowing red nose but then saves Christmas by being the reindeer that Santa calls upon to lead the sleigh through a foggy Christmas Eve – and so Rudolph was born.

Did you know? Rudolph could have been Rollo or Reginald! His creator Robert L May took a long time to decide between all 3 names before plumping for Rudolph in the end.

Shoppers loved the colouring book and the tale was soon turned into a bestselling book and then, in 1949, turned into a song, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, sung by Gene Autry. The song was re-recorded many times, including by Bing Crosby, and became a huge hit. Before settling on Rudolph's name, some of the other names Robert L. May tossed between and considered were Rollo and Reginald!

Can reindeer really fly?

Only Santa's reindeer can fly. Other reindeer, who live in northern Europe, North America and the Arctic, keep their hooved feet firmly on the icy ground.

Is it true that all Santa's reindeer are girl reindeer?

Yes! And not only that, they're pregnant girl reindeer!

How can we tell? It's all about the antlers.

Both male and female reindeer routinely shed their antlers just before winter and only grow them back in springtime. But pregnant reindeer keep their antlers throughout the winter season – and until they've given birth the following spring.

So if Santa's harnessing up his sleigh at Christmas with reindeer sporting lovely antlers, those reindeer can only be pregnant females.

Which normally would mean Rudolph's got some explaining to do...

But then these are special magic reindeer that Santa's chosen, so their antlers are probably magically unsheddable, too...

Pic: Getty Images


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Janet MtimaDigital Journalist

Janet is a Digital Journalist for MadeForMums and mother to a boy and girl both under 4. With a keen eye and passion for creating online media content, she enjoys sharing her own journey of motherhood, and providing encouragement for new mums.