Reindeer visitors love to be stars of the show

PUBLISHED: 17:08 27 December 2013 | UPDATED: 17:08 27 December 2013

Frankie Dudd, aged 4, feeds Santa's reindeer at the N1 Centre, Angel

Frankie Dudd, aged 4, feeds Santa's reindeer at the N1 Centre, Angel


Not many people can say they earn enough working six weekends a year to take a 10-month holiday until their next job, but for those with antlers, it’s a great life.

In the run-up to Christmas, reindeer have been spotted at various locations across Islington and Hackney, including Chatsworth Market, in Chatsworth Road, Lower Clapton, the Nag’s Head Shopping Cente, in Holloway Road, Holloway and the N1 centre, in Parkfield Street, Islington.

But what do Santa’s helpers do for the rest of the year?

Live the life of Riley, says keeper Sarah Crane, despite losing their antlers for part of the year.

She says that while her nine velvety charges are expensive pets to keep – costing up to £3,000 each a year – they make enough over the six-week festive season to pay for their keep and all the other animals Ms Crane looks after.

“Two reindeer will make about £1,200 a day. I could have them booked out every day in the run-up to Christmas but that would be too much for them, so we only let people book them for weekends.

“They really love it as they are absolutely adored when they are at home and it’s the same during events with children. They love the attention.”

Unlike many humans working over Christmas, Ms Crane said she had no problem waking the reindeers up on cold winter mornings to get ready for work.

“The first job of the year was hilarious. As soon as I went down to the stables to put the head collars on, they knew what was going on – before we’d even set the trailer up: they dragged us into it,” she said.

While Ms Crane’s agency is normally 50 per cent booked for reindeer appearances by February, she said demand normally drops off straight after the festive period, even though reindeer look their best from September to October.

“Their antlers come off after Christmas and they completely regrow, along with the velvet surrounding them. In the summer their fur falls off in big bunches – but by October they are looking really sleek again.”

Like cats to catnip, reindeer will do anything for a bit of Lichen moss – but getting hold of the moss is one of the most expensive parts of reindeer welfare.

“A one-tonne palette of Lichen is around £1,500 – that’s 40 boxes, but we go through one to two boxes at every event, so it gets expensive.”

One of the reasons Ms Crane started up her Oxfordshire reindeer business was to give children who couldn’t visit Lapland a chance to meet and learn about reindeer, but the reindeer themselves have clocked up many miles.

“We used to go as far as Alton Towers, but we generally don’t go more than 80 miles away – our one exception recently was the Dover Lights Costa Coffee advert, about 120 miles away.

“The reindeer loved Dover. Snowflake, who featured in the Costa Christmas ad, is like a posing model when she’s on camera – she knows when she’s on show.”

The reindeer’s last engagement was on Boxing Day, and they’ll spend the next 10 months lazing, playing and eating ahead of next year’s holiday season.

“They get really hungry around March so I’ll need to stock up on the lichen,” said Ms Crane.

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