Reindeer don’t fly, but they do sometimes have red noses, like the legendary Rudolph.
The secret to Rudolph’s red nose is a dense network of blood vessels in his nose, scientists explained in a 2012 Live Science article. Reindeer have 25 percent more capillaries carrying red, oxygen-rich blood in their noses than humans. Study results showed reindeer noses do turn a rosy red.
After a treadmill test, the reindeer’s nose showed up as red (warm) in a thermographic image. Rudolph’s legendary luminous red nose helps to protect him during freezing sleigh rides AND regulates the temperature of the reindeer’s brain. These factors are essential for flying reindeer pulling Santa Claus’ sleigh under extreme temperatures.
The study does not completely resolve questions surrounding the origin of Rudolph’s red nose, according to Cullen. Noting that many human’s noses turn red during alcohol consumption, John Cullen, PhD, told MedPage Today said the role of alcohol in Rudolph’s bright red nose remains to be seen. “I think [the message] will be ‘Don’t let Santa drive drunk,’ because he won’t be able to deliver the presents,” said Cullen.
“Seriously, a lot of people leave out quick drinks for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, so I think maybe we should stick to healthier food and drink for both Santa and the reindeer.”