A white Christmas is nothing special in Norway, but a white reindeer sends the Scandinavian internet into meltdown.

After a Norwegian photographer Mads Nordsveen spotted a wild white faun in the snowy north of the country his pictures have been liked over 53,000 times on Instagram.

According to Scandinavian traditions, a sighting of a white reindeer brings good luck. It certainly seems to be a conspicuously fortunate encounter in the run up to Christmas.

"He almost disappeared into the snow!" commented the 24-year old nature photographer from Oslo.

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But pictures of white reindeer in the wild aren't just rare because they are hard to spot.
As Dr Nicholas Tyler from Tromso University's Centre for Saami Studies told the BBC, their colouring makes them "highly conspicuous" in summer months.

This means they make for great targets both for sharp-eyed photographers and predators.

Young reindeer are prey for wolves, brown bears and even eagles in the Lapland region. However once fully grown, an adult reindeer is usually safe from most predators.

Reindeer herders:Indigenous Saami, Inga Maja Steinfjell (left) and Tanja Nordfjell still herd reindeer, though methods have changed. Photo / Timothy Fadek, Getty Images
Reindeer herders:Indigenous Saami, Inga Maja Steinfjell (left) and Tanja Nordfjell still herd reindeer, though methods have changed. Photo / Timothy Fadek, Getty Images

White fur is a rare genetic trait in the wild, however for the Saami people of northern Scandinavia and Russia they are herded and survival rates are much higher.

In the managed herds of Northern Mongolia white reindeer can be quite common and the trait is looked after in those animals by the nomadic Duhka community.

The photogenic white reindeer have become increasingly important for the tourism industry in Lapland. In Finland, the Christmas season is becoming increasingly important for the country's trade and image.

Snowmobiles and helicopters: Saamis now manage massive herds, though smaller farms are increasingly common. Photo / Timothy Fadek, Getty Images
Snowmobiles and helicopters: Saamis now manage massive herds, though smaller farms are increasingly common. Photo / Timothy Fadek, Getty Images

While the summer visitor numbers remain stable as the predictable peak holiday season in the area – so far the winter season has brought in 2,005,681 overnight stays from foreign visitors this year. As an annual increase of ten per cent, the "winter wonderland" is rapidly becoming a central part of the area's image.

Finland's seasonal holidays are now being sold on experiences such as reindeer rides, visiting Santa's grotto and herding with Saami.

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Reindeer mustering: Donner, Blitzen and Satna's seven other reindeer don't stack up to much against most herds. Photo / Timothy Fadek, Getty Images
Reindeer mustering: Donner, Blitzen and Satna's seven other reindeer don't stack up to much against most herds. Photo / Timothy Fadek, Getty Images

While reindeer in Finland are associated less with red noses and Christmas sleighs and more with cranberry sauce and dumplings - the amount of reindeer eaten in Finland remains remarkably low. Over the last fifty years reindeer has reliably made up around one per cent of the meat eaten, while according to the EU-TIKE red-meat consumption has generally fallen.

Reindeer meat: This collective owns approximately 6,000 reindeer for meat, though it makes up a small part of the regional diet. Photo / Timothy Fadek, Getty Images
Reindeer meat: This collective owns approximately 6,000 reindeer for meat, though it makes up a small part of the regional diet. Photo / Timothy Fadek, Getty Images

The reindeer-herding identity of Finland in particular is important to the local population however the fragile Nordic environment of the Arctic circle has led to the population of farmed reindeer being capped at around 200,000 animals in the early 2000s.

As the conspicuously antlered livestock are relied less upon for meat and more for attracting tourists, there is an incentive for smaller herds with more appeal to traditional customs. The Finnish reindeer herds are increasingly shunning the helicopter and snowmobile for sleighs and Santa hats.

And it is images such as Nordsveen's that are fuelling tourists' dreams of a white Christmas in Lapland.

White Christmas: The Crown Prince and Princess of Norway are led by a white reindeer visit Finnmark in Lappish Norway. Photo / Julian Parker, Getty Images
White Christmas: The Crown Prince and Princess of Norway are led by a white reindeer visit Finnmark in Lappish Norway. Photo / Julian Parker, Getty Images