How many reindeer does Santa have?

How many reindeer does Santa have?
(Image credit: Getty)

As Santa prepares to get ready for his biggest night of the year, delivering billions of gifts to people around the world some using his sleigh and his beloved reindeer, you might be wondering, how many reindeer does Santa have?

Whether you're a child or an adult - the answer could prove vital as it will ensure you leave out enough reindeer food (opens in new tab) for all of them and for grown-ups it might help them win a Christmas (opens in new tab) quiz tie-breaker.

So here's all you need to know about Santa's furry friends...

How many reindeer does Santa have?

Traditionally, Santa's sleigh is pulled by eight reindeer, and these feature in the 1823 poem A Visit From St. Nicolas: 'Dasher! now Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!'

The ninth reindeer, Rudolph, wasn't introduced into the pack until 1939 in the famous story of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. In this tale, a small young reindeer with a bright luminous red nose was teased by the others for being different, and they didn’t allow him to join in with all of their fun activities.

But one Christmas Eve, the weather was so foggy that the reindeer kept getting lost and couldn’t give out all of Santa’s presents. Santa had a great idea when he spotted Rudolph's bright nose and asked him to lead the sleigh as a guiding light for all of the others to follow through the blizzard.

With Rudolph on board, Santa managed to give out all of his presents (opens in new tab), and Christmas Day was saved, with Rudolph a hero!

And because of this, today, Santa is recognised as having nine reindeer.

Santa and his reindeer

Santa Clause and his reindeer flying above a snowy forest in West Yellowstone

How many reindeer does Santa have in the song Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer?

The commonly cited names of the nine reindeer are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph, although Donner is sometimes called Donder and Blitzen is sometimes called Blixem.

The lyrics go:

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen But do you recall The most famous reindeer of all?

Santa and his reindeer

Santa Claus with young girl and reindeer in a winter wonderland setting.

What are the names of the 12 reindeer?

In no commonly recognized version of the story does Santa Claus have 12 reindeer pulling his sleigh.

In modern times, Santa is recognised as having nine reindeer:

  1. Dasher - Dasher is renowned for her speed, which certainly comes in handy as she travels the world's length in one night, delivering gifts to all kids.
  2. Dancer - As her name suggests, Dancer is the groovy one. She is that friend whose absence means the party is never the same. Dancer is the one who encourages other reindeer to enjoy the moment even if they are not as fast as Dasher.
  3. Prancer - Likes to show off as she steps in a lively and showy manner.
  4. Vixen - She is the resident entertainer in the group. She likes entertaining her friends, and even Mr. and Mrs. Clause can't get enough of her shows.
  5. Comet - Well, there is a reason everyone considers Comet the 'mom' in the group. She is a caring reindeer and is always thinking about the group's welfare, never putting herself first.
  6. Cupid - Her name says it all; Cupid is all about spreading love, which is the reindeer crew's primary objective. She loves the holiday spirit, cooking, and spreading decorations.
  7. Donner - She was initially called Dunder, which is a rather unfortunate nickname. Well, it could also mean thunder in Dutch, but no one is quite sure what they should call Donner.
  8. Blitzen - Blitzen is another crew member who used to have a rather unusual nickname (Blixem: lightning in Dutch). Perhaps true to her alias, she started pushing herself and testing her limits earlier than any of Santa's other reindeer.
  9. Rudolph - She is quite clearly the captain of the ship, and the crew would be dysfunctional without her leadership.

Santa and reindeer

(Image credit: Getty)

But there was a later addition of Olive, the other reindeer who became the 10th reindeer after mishearing the line “All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names” in the famous Rudolph song.

Vivian Walsh J. Otto Seibold wrote about Olive the other reindeer in 1999 and the 45-minute animation was released into a film, produced by 20th Century Fox Television and Flower Films.

But in L. Frank Baum’s 1902 story The Life and Adventure of Santa Claus includes 10 completely different reindeer names - Flossie and Glossie, Racer and Pacer, Fearless and Peerless, Ready and Steady, Feckless and Speckless.

Meanwhile, another reindeer you might not know is Clarice - the love interest and later girlfriend of Rudolph the red reindeer. She isone of the tritagonists of the 1964 Rankin/Bass TV film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the deuteragonist in its 2001 sequel Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Island Of Misfit Toys.

Is Rudolph one of Santa's reindeer?

Rudolph wasn't one of Santa's original reindeer and this is because Rudolph is copyrighted. He was created in 1939 as an advertisement for a department store whereas Santa's original reindeer were first introduced into the Santa mythology almost 200 years ago in a poem.

But Rudolph is now commonly known as being one of Santa's reindeer after saving Christmas Day using its bright red nose to guide all of the other reindeers through the thick winter foggy sky.

Santa and Rudolph treats

Christmas Eve Note for Santa- Life with Kids-North America

What is Santa's favourite reindeer?

While it's difficult to pick a favourite, as all nine reindeer are needed to pull the sleigh full of toys, Rudolph is a likely contender to be Santa's favourite after she led Santa's sleigh on that cloudy night.

She joined the team as the ninth caribou, and the rest of the reindeer gang didn't always welcome her. She was initially the shy type, but once she took charge on that fateful cloudy night, she evolved into a natural leader.

She brings people together and loves offering her help to those who need it. She also likes travelling, works hard, and will be delivering Santa's gifts!

What is a female reindeer called?

A female reindeer is called cow. While a male reindeer is known as the bull or stag. These are named bulls and cows because the male Reindeer are larger than a bull with stronger hooves and large antlers.

Can reindeer fly?

Most reindeer can't fly, but Santa's reindeer are special. Because they're magic, they can fly very high and very far without getting tired.

Long ago, Santa Claus and the elves discovered a special formula of Magical Reindeer Food which makes reindeer fly. The reindeer eat this food all year long. It gives them enough magic to fly around the world. The magical mushrooms and special reindeer lichen are found only where Santa lives.