Working Reindeer in Past and Present Reindeer Herding

Anna-Kaisa Salmi, Sirpa Niinimäki, Päivi Soppela, Sanna-Mari Kynkäänniemi, Henri Wallen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


It has been suggested that draught reindeer have been used for pulling and carrying people and their things ever since reindeer were domesticated. This chapter explores past and present working reindeer use through archaeological, historical, and ethnographic evidence and reindeer herders’ traditional and practical knowledge. As the identification of working reindeer in the archaeological record is possible using multiple methodologies such as palaeopathological analysis, the analysis of entheseal changes at muscle attachment sites, and the analysis of bone cross-sections, we present the archaeological evidence of working reindeer use gathered from Sámi sites dating to at least 700 years ago. The relationships between draught reindeer and the people training and working with them are also discussed, based on reindeer herders’ know-how of training reindeer for tourism and racing today. To explore the transforming practices and meanings of working with reindeer over time, we used these interdisciplinary strands of evidence of training and working with reindeer, as well as the relationships involved in such interspecies learning and cooperation in past and present reindeer herding.
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


  • daught animals
  • paleopathology
  • physical activity
  • reconstruction
  • traditional knowledge

Field of science

  • Genetics, developmental biology, physiology


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