The residents of Palmer’s Reindeer Farm don’t have a workout playlist, but Denise Hardy, the reindeer’s handler, said if they did, it would include “We Are The Champions.”
“They can get up to 35 miles an hour,” Hardy said. “Usually the reindeer win, except every once in awhile a few will lose the last heat, because that’s the group event and they can’t always get around all the people.”
Ruby, an eight-year-old reindeer with an easily identifiable white nose, wins every year. Other reindeer vying for a spot on this year’s team include Carl, Stella, Sandy, Joy, Bell and Snickers.
Hardy said she can tell the reindeer apart by the shape of their antlers. Though they lose their antlers each year, they always grow back with the same pattern (albeit slightly larger each year).
Though the farm is home to 150 reindeer, only 20 or so will participate in the contest. Hardy said they try to pick reindeer that meet two important criteria: They still have their antlers (Rondy falls during the season that the reindeer start to lose their antlers) and they’ve been trained to wear halters. The antlers are aesthetic, but the halter-training allows handlers to lead the racers to the starting line.
Their natural speed means they don’t have to do much more training — unless you count chasing Cody, the herding dog, around the pen.
While the event is styled after the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, Hardy said it’s much safer than its famous counterpart.
“The reindeer are naturally agile,” Hardy said. “They don’t want to hit people. Usually the only time people get hit is when they purposely jump in front of them.”
Hardy said the reindeer know to run back to their trailer after the race, too, so there’s no chance of a reindeer getting loose in downtown.
“We keep one of their friends at the trailer, so the herd doesn’t try to go anywhere else,” Hardy said. “Reindeer want to be with their herd. Home is where the herd is.”
Sponsored by Fur Rendezvous.