Reindeer are the only cervines (members of the deer family) to be domesticated by humans. As such, they enjoy a cozy, familiar status like chicken, ducks, pigs, and domestic pets do. But, like Santa whose sled they haul each December, they have a darker side despite their cheer and competence.
Let’s take these odd toys dating from the 1950s and 60s, when it was common for a children’s plush toy to have a disturbingly humanoid face molded in rubber.
Even more awful, the bodies of these toys often got tattered and soiled while the faces stayed pristine. These examples are the ones in good condition.
Here’s another kind of stuffed reindeer. Actually, it’s a regular deer, hauled from place to place as a photo prop for Santa pics of a Christmas long past. The 1910s, by the size of the girl’s hair bow.
Real-life reindeer can look awful and deformed as well, particularly after their antlers have reached full size, and they start scraping the velvet (skin covering) off to expose the bone. Even more awful, the special groups of cells, called pedicles, that grow the antlers are a kind of benign bone cancer.
You’re looking at RAW BONE here, folks… RAW BONE. The reddish color later fades of off-white.
Injuries to the head can disturb these groups of cells, which lie all over the skull and not just the crown, leading to antlers growing in places where they shouldn’t, like into this deer’s eye and mouth, so he couldn’t see and couldn’t eat.
There are likely equally gruesome anomalies in reindeer antlers, which vary according to subspecies. The taller ones can also serve as Christmas tree substitutes.
Robotic reindeer don’t have these problems. But they can be creepy as well, especially when being serviced.
But Rudolph & Co. being what they are — cuddly epitomes of Christmas spirit — plenty of artists have subverted them, turning them into aliens, zombies, and demons.