Marking the reindeer calves


A few weeks back I made a post from visiting the reindeer herders in this area and they were marking the calves that time, as they always do in July. For different reasons i didn’t do the follow up, unntil now. Here are a few photos that shows how the South Sámi people of Norway work with the reindeers during summer. In the picture above they are looking at the herd too see what calf belongs to mother reindeer. All the calves have a number around the neck, and they connect them by looking at the ears. All the adult animals have the owners mark cut in the ear, and they recognize them from a distance on running reindeers. That is impressive.



When all the calves are identified, the herd is collected in a medium sized enclosure. From there small groups of reinders are led to a small enclosure were the marking can begin. The owner of every calf will cut their mark in the ears. In addition they have to put a plastic identification in the ears too. The same system as for sheep and cows.




The marking is a time when all the sámi goes to the mountains to participate. Also the children helps in catching the calves. Some of them have also started to learn how to cut their own mark. In this group there are about ten herders who owns the majority of the herd. But every family member usually have some reindeers of their own.



All this might seem kind of brutal to some of you. I will say not. This is traditional life, and the piercing of the reindeer ears are one of just very few times, and for quite a short time, that the animals are in contact with humans. Most of the year they live exactly like the wild reindeers. That is roaming huge areas of wilderness to find food that is scarce in winter, and abundant in summer. At least in this part of the country. I also made a short video from my visit:



After the marking, every reindeer is let loose, to run back into the mountains. Want to know more? Here are some information about reindeer herding, but the descriptions are from the far north of Norway. Here is a link to more photos from the marking, and also some in black & white. And a link to all my sámi and reindeer photos.


52 thoughts on “Marking the reindeer calves

  1. Great photo !
    Something puzzling me is, in your photos, their skin under molting fur seems black
    (and the skin of polar bear under white fur is also black in order to absorb the sun’s heat )
    —– though, a fur-skin I bought in Lapland and brought back here had white skin.
    = does it mean, some are white and others are black ?


    1. I never thought about this, and never studied it, but I am quite sure the colour will have variation. The white reindeers seem to be a little pinkish.. All the skins that have been made into leather have been brown..


      1. Brown colour is because Tanning (= originally leather
        was made soft by chowing in the mouth, since a tang
        —> tanning. Then a liquid from the tree, bitter tasted
        brown coloured juice was used, hence colour brown is Tan,bitter taste of Tea is tanning-taste. If a leather was
        treated by Chromium chemical it become gray. = all
        the human history reflected in here ! ) 😉


  2. Great pictures! It’s so good to see people who live close to the earth and the animals that help support them. Fascinating to think that they can see those ear marks at such distances. They have grown up that way.


  3. I am there too and I can feel the air and the moments of these photographs… What a beautiful sharing dear Bente, you are amazing. Thank you, love, nia


  4. Hello bente, thank you for this sharing for show us things of your environment and traditionnal gestures. A special day for children who perpetuate ancestral methods. Here too, they are very active in the agricultural world. good day


  5. Your accounts of the reindeer and Sami people of Norway must be or will be adding valuable material to current historical records. Have you published a book on these activities yet? We are so lucky to have access to it through your amazing pictures and words. Thanks!


  6. Oh my Bente! outstanding!
    really nice to see some mooving images, and, to also hear the sound of these animals. I like alot the last image ‘the jump’. Great


  7. Thanks for this remarkable report Bente! The marking does seem cruel to an outsider, but I am sure it is done with care and compassion. Outstanding shots as always 🙂


  8. Agree with the comment from Nancy Tanner “I love when children are a part of their cultural heritage and are learning” – these photos very well captured atmosphere… 🙂


  9. Excellent post for all the reasons already posted, but the video really added that extra touch of what it was like to be there. Thank you for showing us this piece of your world!


  10. Fascinating post Benthe, it’s a way of life we have no idea of here in the UK. Ancient and hard, but it’s good to see the Sami people are living in a way that is in tune with the land. Amazing video too, it’s a family affair and stills can’t show the numbers of deer in the herd, especially when they are on the move.


  11. Fascinating Bente! Had no idea and altho the idea makes me cringe a bit I understand what you’re saying about the traditional life. Pretty amazing isn’t it?!


  12. Ja, här backade jag till… tonåren då jag var med på en renskiljning. Min kompis var same och tog mig med. Fantastiska bilder och film, Bente!


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