We’ve all heard of Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer. You know, that reindeer with a shiny, glowing red nose that guides Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. But have you ever wondered whether ordinary reindeer really do have red noses? Let’s learn about that here.
You may be surprised to learn there is actually some science behind the perception that reindeer have red noses. Their noses don’t light up and glow, though. So, do reindeer have red noses?
Reindeer have an unusually large number of blood vessels in their nostrils, which can create a red appearance in certain conditions. These blood vessels give them their extremely strong sense of smell, something that is necessary to find food under a layer of snow. If you looked at a reindeer through a thermal camera or if there’s light directly on a reindeer’s nose, you’d notice a slight red glow. But most of the time, this coloration isn’t easy to see.
So, Do Reindeer Really Have Red Noses?
The short answer is that yes, some reindeer do have red-tinted noses. But the coloration doesn’t appear on all reindeer. And it certainly doesn’t appear as intensely red as the Rudolph song makes it sound.
Reindeer have a large number of densely packed blood vessels in their noses. These blood vessels serve three main purposes.
- They ensure that the reindeer has a large enough blood supply to regulate body temperature in extreme climates.
- These blood vessels are responsible for giving reindeer their strong sense of smell.
- They are responsible for regulating blood flow throughout the body, but that will be discussed in more detail later.
These blood vessels are usually condensed near the edges of the reindeer’s nose, right by the nostrils. So only a small part of the nose appears bright red, as opposed to the whole thing.
Furthermore, only reindeer that live in specific harsh climates have red noses.
Reindeer typically live in colder climates, including the following locations:
It’s the reindeer that live in the coldest of cold climates, such as Russia and Alaska, that have been seen with red noses.
The red nose also mainly appears during the wintertime, when reindeer have shed their summer coat and their thicker winter coat has come in.
Sometimes the fur on their noses also turns white, and this can hide the blood vessels. That’s one reason you might not see the red nose even if it’s there.
Because of these factors, not many people have seen a reindeer with a red nose in real life. But recent research has shown that red-nosed reindeer might be more common than previously thought.
The Science Behind Red-Nosed Reindeer
On average, reindeer have about a 25% higher concentration of blood vessels in their noses compared to humans.
The larger number of blood vessels in the nose helps the reindeer maintain body temperature when they get too hot or too cold.
Researchers found that a reindeer’s nose reaches about 75 degrees after significant exercise. The increase in heat indicated that there was a significant amount of blood flow occurring in the reindeer’s nose.
Furthermore, their noses appeared to glow red when seen by an infrared camera.
But this is because an infrared camera scans temperature, with a bright red indicating a hot area and purple or blue indicating a cold area.
This occurred because the reindeer’s body was bringing large volumes of blood to their nose so the reindeer’s extra heat could escape into the air.
It’s why humans and reindeer can see their breath as they breathe in cold air. Our body is making sure our blood keeps flowing so our body temperature is regulated.
History of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
The story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer originated in 1939.
A children’s book writer and illustrator named Robert May wrote and published a book about the now-famous reindeer that saved Christmas.
There were 2.5 million copies of the book sold, and the coming decades would produce a song and a TV special that cemented the legend as a Christmas favorite.
A reindeer’s red nose might also appear to be glowing if you shine a light directly at its face. But aside from those instances, Rudolph is the only reindeer that has a glowing red nose.
Final Thoughts On Reindeer and Red Noses
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is certainly a work of fiction, but now you’ve learned something fascinating. Some reindeer really do have red-tinted noses.
They’re certainly not bright and glowing like Rudolph’s nose, at least not to the naked eye.
But if you ever get to view a reindeer with an infrared camera, you might just see something that reminds you of Rudolph!