He is a source of mockery in the Christmas carol, but Rudolph’s red nose is real and well adapted to his environment, scientists from Holland and Norway claim.
A comparative study of human and reindeer noses, published in the British Medical Journal, found that the North Pole creatures have a 25 percent higher density of blood vessels. This improves their circulation, and keeps both the nose and brain from freezing, while giving it a distinctive red tint.
"These factors explain why the nose of Rudolph, the lead flying reindeer employed by Santa Claus to pull his sleigh, is red and well adapted to carrying out his duties in extreme temperature," said study author Can Ince of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.
The same study investigated human nasal circulation in different states, including under the influence of alcohol and cocaine. Both contributed a dramatic reddening effect, prompting the recommendation that people should be more careful about leaving festive treats for Santa.
"I think maybe we should stick to healthier food and drink for both Santa and the reindeer," Professor John Cullen of the University of Rochester advised Medpage.
Despite vindication of Rudolph's nose, doubts persist over his ability to visit every home on Christmas Eve. Physicists estimate he would have to travel at 650 miles per second (1,046 kms per second), 3,000 times the speed of sound, to visit 100 million homes.