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Raising reindeer is a fun hobby for Drayton area man

For Vernon Hoselton, who works for a construction company in Drayton, the reindeer are a fun hobby. Photo by John Brose

DRAYTON, N.D. -- The holiday season is a busy time at the Reindeer Ranch.

During December, ranch owner Vernon Hoselton makes appearances with his reindeer at yuletide events across North Dakota. This weekend, for example, Hoselton took Iggy and Chocolate, two of his does, to the Gateway Mall in Bismarck. Ollie, Panda and Norma, three other reindeer are at Santa Village at Rhealt Farm in Fargo.

Hoselton and his wife, Jan, and their sons started reindeer ranching in 1998. Hoselton decided to breed reindeer because he wanted to raise an animal that was more out of the ordinary than domestic livestock, but easier to handle than the buffalo he was producing at the time. Over the years Hoselton has raised other animals, including goats, pigs, horses and Scottish Highland cattle.

"I'm one of those who doesn't like the normal (animals)," he said.


But reindeer are an unusual animal with many uses, Hoselton noted.

"You can milk them, they're a pack animal, you can ride them and you can eat them."

However, he doesn't do any of those things with his reindeer.

"I just show them. Most of them in the lower 48 (states) are show animals." The reindeer, though, are easy keepers, unlike some show animals.

The bucks and does are hardy and don't require much shelter in the winter, Hoselton said. They don't go inside the barn even during blizzards, he noted.

"They like the cold. In the spring of the year, wherever the last snow bank is, they're there." In fact, the only time his reindeer go in the barn is when it gets too warm and they need shade, he said. In the summer, Hoselton runs fans in the barn to keep the animals cool.

The reindeer eat a ration that is made up of horse feed, sugar beet pulp and alfalfa hay. They are fussy when it comes to the alfalfa and prefer to eat the leaves and not the stalks, Hoselton said.

An adult reindeer can weigh up to 600 pounds, but average about 300- to 400-pounds, he said. The bucks lose their antlers during the fall and early winter and the does lose them before calving season.

Reindeer sightings

The reindeer are easy to take to events and are docile in crowds, Hoselton said.

"You get them in the mall, they'll lie down and go to sleep." Besides hauling the reindeer to appear at events around North Dakota, Hoselton also invites visitors to the Reindeer Ranch to see the animals.

"It's kind of a thrill, the kids of all ages get to see them. A lot of times, it's a once-in-a-lifetime (event) to see the animals. If you're 105 and you haven't seen it before, you're still as thrilled as a kid."

For Hoselton, who works for a construction company in Drayton, the reindeer are a fun hobby.

"I didn't go into it for making money. It's just the joy of everybody gets to see them."

Reach Ann Bailey at (701) 787-6753; (800) 477-6572, ext. 753; or send email to