Santa's Reindeer

We all know that Santa's sleigh is pulled through the sky by a team of reindeer. But where did this essential part of our Christmas/Xmas tradition originate?

Like much of the modern Christmas, the origin of Santa's reindeer is relatively new. They were first devised by Clement Clarke Moore (or Major Henry Livingstone Jr) in the famous 19th century poem "A Visit From Saint Nicholas". This is better known today as "The Night Before Christmas". Here he describes Saint Nicholas being pulled by a team of eight reindeer.

What Are The Names Of Santa's Reindeer?

Knowing what Santa's reindeer are called is a great skill for quiz nights! According to Moore's original poem the eight reindeer were named:

• Dasher
• Dancer
• Prancer
• Vixen
• Comet
• Cupid
• Dunder / Donner
• Blixem / Blitzen

It has been suggested that in the original version Donner and Blitzen (thunder and lightning) were actually called by the Dutch equivalents of Dunder (sometimes Donder) and Blixem.


One name is conspicuous from the list above by its absence: the most famous reindeer of all, Rudolph. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer is the best known of all Santa's reindeer yet he wasn't part of the original team of eight.

Rudolph was created in 1939 by Robert L. May. May worked for the Montgomery Ward chain of department stores which used to give away colouring books and other gifts to children over Christmas. They wanted a story specially written for them and May - who already liked to write children's stories - was assigned the task

May invented Rudolph, a shy reindeer with an unusually shiny red nose who was a bit of an ugly duckling but whose shiny nose ultimately saved the day. The story was a great success and Rudolph became an instant hit. May's original poem was turned into the famous song by his brother-in-law Johnny Marks.