The reindeer roadshow that spreads seasonal joy

Richard Burniston with two of his herd at Riggmoor Reindeer, Little Givendale Farm, near Ripon.  3 December 2015.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Richard Burniston with two of his herd at Riggmoor Reindeer, Little Givendale Farm, near Ripon. 3 December 2015. Picture Bruce Rollinson
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Richard and Becky Burniston have one of the largest reindeer herds in the north of England, having started with them just five years ago when he bought four from a breeder-come-importer in Derby.

Today they have a team of 20 people looking after a herd of 50 and their reindeer typically travel to more than 120 events all over the country by the end of their seven-week season on Christmas Eve.

Richard, who is based near Ripon, said: “It’s crazy, but we love it. There are days when we can have as many as eight teams out at once but we always make sure that we swap which reindeer are taken out each day.

“They’re docile and friendly animals but they can be bored just like the rest of us would be if we had people just staring at us all day, so we give them time off.”

Their initial idea of keeping reindeer was borne out of Becky wanting to do something different from the pet shop in Boroughbridge that they once ran, but Richard now dreams of running an even larger herd.

“If I get my dream I’ll buy my own land and have a herd of a couple of hundred but I also love what I do at the moment,” he said.

“I’ve worked for JC Lister Farms for 27 years and look after 600 head of beef cattle with a couple of lads working with me and I couldn’t ask for a better boss than David Lister.”

The variety of taking the reindeer to all manner of events is something Richard and Becky enjoy.

And while reindeer meat is sold widely in Scandinavia, Richard has no intention of ever going down that track.

“Nothing ever goes for meat or ever will,” he said. “All our reindeer have names and if anything is named here then it stops here for the rest of its life. We pride ourselves on that. Our six-year-old son, Angus, can tell you what each one is called; and I’d now rather be out with him and my reindeer than down at the pub.”