Experience one of nature’s most breathtaking phenomena with a bird’s eye view as this herd of reindeer forms an impeccable cyclone.
Few wildlife happenings hold the mesmerizing power of this spectacle. It’s a phenomenon as old as the species itself, with ancient tales of Vikings baffled by what’s on display surviving to this day.
Enter the reindeer cyclone: a behavioral trait as beautiful as the majestic megafauna themselves. Interest in these swirling circles of cervids has reignited thanks to a Tuesday post from The Moscow Times. Within, the trade notes their footage “shows how the herd will ‘dance’ in a circle to protect the does and their fawns in the center.”
Captured by photographer Lev Fedoseyev in Russia’s Murmansk region, the clip then resurfaced thanks to Science Girl on Twitter. In their textless, clearer edit of the spectacle, the wildlife account showcases “a swirling mass of threatened reindeer stampeding in a circle making it impossible to target an individual.”
Watch as the cyclone takes full effect below:
“No matter what species you are, a mothers’ love is the strongest,” the Moscow Times continues of the drone-filmed footage.
The Hows and Whys of a Reindeer Cyclone
Seeing this wildlife phenomenon from a bird’s eye view is something the Vikings could’ve only dreamt of. They were, however, quite familiar with its purpose. Reindeer were a staple of ancient Scandinavian culture. The beasts were hunted for their meat, pelts, antlers, and everything in-between. As such, reindeer would’ve created cyclones to fend off the Vikings themselves, as they were a natural predator of the species.
Their other natural predators, such as wolves and bears, would’ve spurred this behavior, too. A single reindeer is hard enough to pin down… Imagine this display swirling into effect and then trying to target one for the kill.
These wild apex predators will try to pick off the slowest, sickest, or youngest from a herd. In short: the easiest target makes for the easiest kill. This becomes a near-impossible task, however, when the largest and most healthy of reindeer begin cycloning around their most vulnerable members.
Within a reindeer cyclone, the mothers (female cows) and sometimes even male bulls will form the circle around calves first.
According to LiveScience, “This behavior is also [in practice] by reindeer kept in corrals, occurring in groups of at least 20 to 25 animals, researchers wrote in a 2002 study published in the journal Rangifer.”
Needless to say, the phenomenon is beautiful, but deadly for any caught on its bottom side, too. Reindeer can and will accidentally trample their own within cyclones. Any humans – or other animals – unlucky enough to be caught within can also be trampled.
Regardless, once an Outsider has seen a reindeer cyclone, they never view this remarkable species the same way again.