home> Nationalities in Northeast China and Inner Mongol> Ewenki Nationality  

The boat in the 'sea' of forests - reindeers

The reindeers are commonly called 'the nondescript animal', with another name of 'antler deer'. They are nominated as 'the nondescript animal', because they have the horse-like head, the deer-like antler, the donkey-like body and the cattle-like hoof, but they don't belong to the four kinds at all. The reindeers are quite meek, adapting well to cold weathers. They are fond of eating the moss, and they can manage it very well when they are walking in the remote mountainous forests, or the swamp, or deep snow.

On their way of movingReindeers are wild animals, originated in Lake Baikal and Upper Lena. Later, they are caught and domesticated by the hunting groups of Ewenki and Oroqen, and generally tamed to be a tool of their productive and daily life. The Ewenki became the one and only ethnic group who breed and use reindeers after the Oroqen take the horse as the replacement.

Reindeers are called 'Erlun' in the Ewenki language. They generally measure around 2 meters in length and 1 meter in height, and weigh from 100 kg to 150 kg. The colors of their hair include dust-color, white, black and versicolor, etc. The tails are usually short, and there is a long tuft of hair under the neck. The male are higher and the female are lower. Their life-span is generally 15 years to 20 ears. Most of the female in deer family have no antlers, yet the reindeer differentiate from other deer that both sexes grow a pair of branched antlers. The size and amount of the branches vary due to different ages. The antlers are deciduous and grow again in March or April the next year. The reindeers are quite valuable, serving as the main income of the Ewenki, because the meat of reindeers is edible, the milk is drinkable, the skin can be tanned to leather, and in particular, the antlers and the genital organ are precious medicinal materials.

The ReindeerThe reindeers are meek by nature. They will never kick or bite people. It is very convenient to raise reindeers, and they are usually raised by women. People don't have to enclose them with a fence, or to feed them. You can just put them out to graze in the nearby valleys. The reindeers will leave the campsites when the night comes, herding and grazing in the forests, and come back at dawn. They won't leave in the daytime. The reindeers are good at finding food. Even in the winter, when the mountain paths are sealed by snow, they can also use the broad forepaws to dig up into the snow, as deep as 1 meter, to look for mosses to eat. The reindeers have a tooth for salt. Their masters can knock on the salt box if they want to use the reindeers. They will follow the sound and come.

The reindeers are very strong. They can bear a burden of more than 40 kg and cover more than 20 miles per day. They are indispensable in the productive and daily life of the Ewenki hunters, because this light-weighted animal with broad hoofs can walk for a long time in deep snow, in the swamp or the dense forest. People use the reindeer to transport the hunted animals and all the articles for daily use, such as the cookers, foodstuff, clothes, and the fabric and birch bark that can be used to make tents. The Ewenki love their reindeers dearly. Each of the reindeers has a name and a wooden or cooper bell so that it can be found easily. The Ewenki will never give heavy things to pregnant reindeers or baby reindeers to carry, and they won't drink them when the reindeers are sweaty, to avoid abortion and disease.

The local custom: respecting the old, hospitality and the folks in awe of fire <<
Celebrating the harvest: "Mikuolu" >>