Finland: The Reindeer that Thinks he's a Dog

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Meet Aatu, possibly Finland's friendliest and most house-trained reindeer.

He has a few hobbies and all of them include spending time interacting with humans.

While many reindeer here in Lapland spend their time on farms, instead of digging around in the ground for moss to eat, Aatu has his served at a dining table, in a nice warm house.

Here, he can spend time watching television rather than staring at the snow and even enjoys hanging out with humans rather than other reindeers.

Aatu was abandoned by his mother when he was a small calf in the northern Finish wilderness.

After being rescued by a young boy, he arrived here at the home of Pia Tuukkanen, who decided to take care of him.

He was bottle-fed and grew up largely in the house where he learnt how to interact with Tuukkanen and other humans.

Now at six years of age, Aatu is a fully-grown male reindeer weighing around 100 kilograms, although he has not changed much.

He loves to visit Tuukkanen's home and spend his time relaxing.

According to Tuukkanen, this makes him quite a special reindeer:

"Well normally reindeers doesn't want to hang out with people. They don't want to be touched; they don't want to be around people. But this one - he thinks he's a dog," she says.

And just like a dog, Aatu needs to go for regular walks around the block.

According to his owner, he's almost fully house trained.

But accidents still happen, meaning Aatu no longer lives with his owner full time.

Instead, he comes to visit from the reindeer farm down the road where he spends most of his days.

Tuukkanen says when he does visit, Aatu can leaves things untidy:

"Well, he would like to come every day. But, I let him in just in special cases, cause he is quite messy," she says.

Here at Aatu's farm, all these reindeer are used by the tourist industry to pull sledges.

Thousands of people visit this farm every year to get a taste of the real Lapland.

Although Aatu spends a lot of time with humans, Tuukkanen says he also likes to work:

"Normally domesticated reindeers are too lazy and they get upset when people want them to work. They don't understand why they need to do something, cause they are normally just hanging around. But Aatu, he likes to do it, he likes to pull a sledge," she says.

Here in Finland, there are around 200,000 reindeers, most of them herded in the wild.

Aatu can count himself lucky to be a tourist attraction as most of the reindeer calves born here each year are killed of their meat.

Today he and his owner are being visited by a family from Japan.

They head out together to pull sledges around a track, then spend some time bonding afterwards.

Nine-year old Mahioo Kucuhara is certainly enjoying some quality time with Aatu:

"He is very nice," she says.

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