Reindeer husbandry

Savukoski is traditional reindeer husbandry areas, where the traditional economy still flourishes today as a source of livelihood. There are plenty of reindeer in the region, around ten times as many reindeer as people. The traveller has the opportunity to take a peek into the life of reindeer and reindeer herders by visiting a functioning reindeer farm.

 

The reindeer has been tamed from wild caribou. The reindeer were originally used as decoy animals for catching deer, pulling sleighs and carrying goods. The folk practicing reindeer husbandry have always used the countryside and conditions to their benefit, living by the rules of nature even today. During the spring and early summer the reindeer are dispersed until the swarms of mosquitoes make them herd together. This is the time when reindeer are gathered for the summer marking. The reindeer mating season is in the autumn. At this time, the bulls gather up harems of 30-50 female reindeer, which is also a time when the reindeer are herded into a separation enclosure.
Traditionally, reindeer husbandry has involved the use of vehicles and skis, and indeed herding has also been done on foot. Dogs have also played an important role in herding the reindeer. The herders often spent rather long periods out in the wilds, as the distances covered were often large and travel was slow. With the introduction of the snowmobile in the late 1960s, reindeer herding changed significantly. Travel became easier, and it was then even possible to travel to work from home. The need for driving bulls lessened, and the reindeer economy became increasingly focused on meat production. The use of dogs decreased, and nowadays reindeer are even herded by helicopter. It is evident therefore, that reindeer husbandry practices have changed a great deal over the years, but some of the best old traditions such as using dogs are once more being taken up. In Lapland, reindeer husbandry is an integral part of society and a way of life belonging to Lappish culture, a livelihood that keeps the community in one place, still providing the main source of livelihood for reindeer herder families.