Few things evoke holiday excitement more than visions of red-nosed reindeer. Turns out, a small family farm in Bowling Green, KY, is one of the only places in the country where you can interact with the majestic creatures tete-a-tete. Leading up to this season’s opening on November 17, we spoke with The Reindeer Farm’s co-owner, Jessica Anderson, about her family’s creation of this Southern holiday tradition that’s totally worth the drive.
How The Reindeer Farm was born
The idea of a reindeer farm started when Jessica and Russell Anderson would drive their kids all over the country for this unique holiday experience. “We wanted to raise our children on a farm and get them outside, more like my husband and I grew up,” Jessica says. “We were willing to drive over eight hours one way to visit reindeer from our farm in Western Kentucky! And we knew there were other families more local to us who would be willing to drive that far — but wouldn’t have to if we opened our farm to visitors.” So the Andersons opened their pastoral life to the antlered friends they knew Southerners would love to see.
A few quick reindeer facts
Reindeer originally lived in the snowy tundra and forests of Scandinavia and northern Russia. Now, you can also find them in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, and Canada. Wild reindeer are called caribou in North America, but we call them reindeer if they’re in the care of humans. Domesticated reindeer can live up to 20 years (five years longer than they typically survive in the wild).
Reindeer have unique noses that warm the air before it hits their lungs. Their hooves expand in the summer to navigate softer ground and shrink in the winter when the ground hardens. Reindeer can withstand extreme cold and snow and are fabulous swimmers. Perhaps the most incredible part? They have the largest antlers of all deer species, and they use them to fight off predators, woo suitors, and clear brush and snow to find food.
Reindeer myths, busted
“A lot of guests are surprised to learn that both males (bulls) and females (heifers/cows) have antlers,” Jessica says. “Reindeer are the only members of the deer family where both sexes have antlers. Females can have huge and impressive antlers to the point you cannot identify male or female by antlers alone!”
Another fun fact: The word “reindeer” comes from the old Norse word hreinn which means deer. It has nothing to do with the reins of a sled, as is commonly assumed.
A touching story about the farm’s first calf
Jessica was elated to talk about Anderson. “Little Anderson is the first reindeer calf ever born on our farm! Being the first, our children felt it fitting to give him our family name,” Jessica says. “He was born on May 8, weighing a healthy 12 pounds! He was born to first-time parents, Moodolf and Mistletoe. Both mom and baby needed help nursing, so we assisted them every two hours around the clock for his first four-and-a-half days of life before they took off on their own. Anderson looks so much like his beautiful mom with a sweet face and silvery neck.”
What to expect when you visit The Reindeer Farm
Jessica says seeing the delight and awe on visitors’ faces never gets old. Beyond the impressive crew of well-kept animals like alpacas, highland cows, pigs, and more, the Andersons continually add to this southern holiday destination. The property is a wonderland of petting zoos, outdoor games, bounce houses, train rides, food and wine vendors, holiday movies and music, cozy fire pits, and more. On the farm’s themed days and weekends, expect live ice sculpting, chainsaw carving, holiday characters, cookie decorating, and appearances by Santa and Mrs. C.
“The thing folks love most is our non-rushed atmosphere, where your tickets are good all day long,” Jessica adds. You can visit the farm for $15, but the most popular holiday offering is the $35 “Reindeer Encounter,” a scheduled experience in the reindeer pen that allows you to learn about and play with the reindeer until your heart’s content and your camera roll’s full.
When you can visit The Reindeer Farm
From November 17 through December 17, the farm is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. From December 18 through 23, hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Saturday. They host encounters, parties, and events by appointment year-round.
“We never could have imagined how much love and support our guests pour into us!” Jessica says. “How friendships have been created over the love of the holidays and these special creatures. It’s truly magical and almost surreal to be a part of people’s holiday traditions!”
All photos courtesy of The Reindeer Farm. Find out more about the farm and plan your visit at TheReindeerFarm.com.
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