Gathering the reindeer herd before moving for new pastures

April 2015 

During the migration season, Nenets of Siberia are busy almost every day in gathering the reindeers all together, before moving their camp and the herd to a new location, in search of fresh pastures along Yamal peninsula in northern Russia. Males reindeers are separated from females, while others are captured by lasso and later used to pull the sledges. Reindeers showing too independent behavior, are punished by a collar with poles around their neck.

On the previous page we showed the sequence of operations carried out almost every day by Nenets, to dismantle the camp and load everything on the sledges. Now, late in the morning, it's finally time to gather the herd of reindeer, before moving to the new destination.

Video with reindeer running around the camp.
Siberian tundra
Reindeer on the tundra Reindeer on the snow
Initially the reindeer are scattered over a vast plain. Nenets shepherds, aided by dogs, by snowmobiles and by particular voice calls, start to gather the animals around a smaller area.
Bambino Nenci
Nenets shepherds

Meanwhile, other shepherds use the lasso to catch some animals. Besides being gathered, the reindeer are also divided between males and females, while others are taken to pull the sleds later.
Reindeer in Siberia
Reindeer herd

To the call of the shepherds, the reindeer get nervous and start to run in circles around what remains of the camp.
Reindeer herding Reindeer captured by lasso
This sequence of photos shows the capture of a reindeer by lasso.
Nenets of Siberia
More images of the capture of the reindeer by lasso, a technique that Nenets of Siberia start to learn from childhood.
Throwing a lasso Capturing a reindeer
The reindeer on the left is targeted simultaneously by two Nenet shepherds, one of them will certainly capture the animal.
Nenets shepherd
Throwing a lasso.
Nenets and reindeer
The operation of capturing reindeer by lasso goes on for over an hour, until the animals are not all gathered, sorted and divided by gender and rule.

Video with Nenets shepherds catching reindeer by lasso.
Gathering reindeer Reindeer taken by lasso
Nenets people
Capturing the reindeer by lasso is a very hard work and Nenets people really seem tireless as they run all around in deep snow, shouting to control the animals.
Punished reindeer
Some reindeer wear a special collar with wooden sticks, which prevent the animal to move quickly, eat and drink. This is used as a kind of punishment for reindeer who tend to abandon the herd.
Samoyed dog chasing a reindeer Nenets in Russia
The Samoyed dogs are an invaluable aid for Nenets shepherds, as they help to maintain the herd compact, bringing back the reindeer who run away.
Reindeers running
Herd of reindeer
Nenets reindeer herding
Captured reindeers Reindeer captured by lasso

The captured reindeer are then taken at the point where all the other animals waiting, or are tied to the sledges to be pulled.

After the gathering operations, the animals lie down on the snow and relax.
Nenet shepherd
Herd of reindeers
The herd of reindeer artfully gathered and compacted thanks to the hard work carried out almost every day, by Nenets of Siberia.
Nenets woman
Nenets people Nenets
Nenets people in their traditional clothes, while caring for the gathered reindeer.
Yamal peninsula
Meanwhile small babies stay alone near some sledge. Every adult, and even children, must contribute to the hard work of gathering the reindeers, so the parents can not stay with their younger babies.
Nenets of Yamal Reindeer herding in Yamal
As a last step, the reindeer chosen for pulling the sleds are separated from the group and tied to the latter.
Many hours have passed from the wakeup call of this morning and now, after having broken the camp, loaded everything on the sledges and gathered the reindeer, it is already mid-afternoon: finally the time to leave for the chosen destination of the day.

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Nenets of Siberia: info and expedition log

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