Castration as Part of Reindeer Herd Management

Päivi Soppela, Mathilde van den Berg, Sanna Kynkäänniemi, Henri Wallen

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It has been suggested that reindeer castration is a practice that started very early in the process of reindeer domestication. Castrated males have long been favoured as working animals, and have been used for the transport of people and goods. Castration makes reindeer easier to handle and may have played a key role in associating humans with wild reindeer in the past. Although the importance of castration is recognised, there are few methods to define castrated reindeer from archaeological materials. This chapter explores past and present reindeer castration in Fennoscandian reindeer herding through historical and ethnographic evidence, presenting promising methods that can be used for the identification of castration from reindeer bone collections. We address the role of castration in reindeer that serve different purposes such as working and for meat, and consider how they have changed in relation to past and present reindeer herding, and herd management strategies. Various aspects of castration such as age, timing, and its physical and behavioural effects on reindeer are dealt with and discussed based on our fieldwork among present-day reindeer herders. The castration of draught reindeer working in tourism and racing is discussed based on reindeer herders’ traditional knowledge, practical expertise, and experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDomestication in Action
Subtitle of host publicationPast and Present Human-Reindeer Interaction in Northern Fennoscandia
EditorsAnna-Kaisa Salmi
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-98643-8
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-98642-1
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoEC publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book


  • reindeer herding
  • management practices
  • draught reindeer
  • traditional knowledge
  • ethnoarchaeology
  • ethnobiology

Field of science

  • Genetics, developmental biology, physiology


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