The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd was established in 1952 so over the past 65 years there have been many main breeding bulls so here is a little sum up. I can only tell you about the ones I remember but there were many bulls before my time as well. I’ll try to inspire Tilly (or Alan) to write a blog on the ones before my time.
The first bull I remember when I was very young was Gustav and he was born in 1985, the same year as my brother. You could not get a more gentle reindeer, if he was a human he would be the perfect gentleman! I suspect nowadays we have lots of reindeer in the herd like Gustav but back in the day he was certainly one of a kind! You may find this morbid but a few years after Gustav died we found his skull so we hung it up in our shed on the hill so we feel like he watches over us when we bring the herd in for handling. He was the main breeding bull in 1989, 1990 and 1991.
The next one to memory was Crackle who came to us from Whipsnade zoo in 1991 along with two others, Snap and Pop (Who remembers Snap, Crackle and Pop from Kellogg’s Rice Krispies?). Being new blood we obviously wanted to breed from him. He was also a very good looking reindeer, grew lovely antlers and had a great temperament so all good things to go back into our herd. He featured on the front cover of Tilly’s first book ‘Velvet Antlers Velvet Noses’ and lived to a grand age of 16. He was also photographed by wildlife photographer Laurie Campbell and recently we have acquired some posters from Laurie which were printed many years ago when Crackle was in his prime which we are selling in our shop.
After Crackle was Utsi who was born in 1998. He was hand reared by Alan, my dad. Utsi’s mum Pepper died when he was very young so we bottle fed him milk and he was Alan’s shadow around the hill and farm. I had a love/hate relationship with Utsi… and not because we fought over Alan’s attention, he well and truly had that 😉 When I was in my mid-teens on the hill one day with mum, we fed the herd and I was walking back counting them. At that point Utis was rutting and decided I was a few steps too close to his females and he completely flattened me. There were no injuries, infact I managed to get myself in-between his antlers while on the ground and held him into me as mum came over flapping an empty food sack to shoo him away. He headed off leaving me in a wee pile on the ground, but un-injured! The trouble when reindeer are hand-reared is they see us as part of their herd and being totally comfortable in our company he wasn’t scared to give me a telling off for getting too close so it’s a fair one really. I’ve learnt from my mistakes and how to act around rutting bulls so there have been no incidents since. The same year Utsi was a breeding bull we also had Cluster who was the same age. He was very different, kept himself to himself but grew lovely big antlers. We also had Red who was another gentleman, good looking with a super nature!
We then had a spell where we used bulls we brought in from Sweden in 2004. This was new blood in the herd which is very important but it meant there wasn’t necessarily one main breeding bull. Some of these bulls were Sarek, Sirkas, Jokkmokk, Ritsem, Västra, Ola, Moskki and Porjus.
Then there was Crann!!! If you haven’t heard of Crann I’d be very surprised. He has been the pin up boy of the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd for quite some time now and although a very old man at 14 years he is still with us… though not looking as quite as good as he once was. None of the past or future bulls have matched the size of Crann’s antlers, he still holds the record and I suspect will for a long time to come. He was truly magnificent in his prime and his photograph has been in many national newspapers as well as our own advertising and images on various items of shop stock. He is certainly enjoying full retirement now at our hill farm over at Glenlivet, and quite rightly too!
So in the more recent years we have had more reindeer joining us from Sweden. In 2008 we brought over Pelle, Jaska, Bajaan and Magnus who were the main breeding bulls around 2009, 2010 and 2011. Then there was Gandi, Bovril, Jara, Lalle, Boxer, Kota, Houdini, Pera, Bandy and Nutti who joined us in 2011. The most recent Scottish bulls are Balmoral and Ost. Both from very strong family lines and they have lovely natures and grow beautiful antlers… everything you want in a reindeer!