Drive deer

Nenets Autonomous Region

Russia Beyond
Russia Beyond
When winter begins to slowly recede, the Nenets drive countless herds of reindeer closer to the edge of the Barents Sea.

On the night before the tough day, herders go to sleep right after dinner. And with good reason: a herd of reindeer have to be driven 30-40 kilometers towards the sea. 

As soon as the sun appears above the horizon, preparations are already in full swing in the camp. The Nenets fuel snowmobiles and harness reindeer to light wooden sledges. Yes, yes, along with modern mechanisms, traditional vehicles are still in use here. 

It seems that the faithful helpers of people, the Nenets Laikas, crave the most work. In anticipation of the start of the haul, they scurry back and forth and, with their noisy barking, seem to urge: “Hurry - woof - soon! The sun will set very soon! Woof! Woof!” 

In general, it’s impossible to approach a Nenets chum (hut) unnoticed. As soon as the crunch of snow or the distant sound of a speeding snowmobile reaches the ears of the four-legged watchmen, a menacing bark immediately rises. Although, in truth, after many hours of driving through the endless frosty tundra, there is nothing more joyful than this sound. Where there are laikas, there are people. Where there are people, there is warmth and food. 

For those who see this aboriginal dog breed for the first time, Nenets Laikas seem like fussy fluffy lumps that were brought in for beauty. But do not rush to conclusions! In addition to the fact that dogs take on the duty of watchmen, they, along with people, participate in hunting and grazing reindeer. 

While the Nenets on snowmobiles and sledges surround the main herd and lead it in the right direction, some deer always attempt to escape into the forest (where, unfortunately, certain death awaits a lonely animal). That’s where the laikas come in. It is amazing, but it is not difficult for a dog to catch up in deep snow and direct a bewildered deer back towards the herd. And is it work for the Nenets Laika? Nope! It’s fun and games! 

How to do a deer drive

When winter begins to slowly recede and the ice is about to melt on the lakes and swamps in the vicinity of Naryan-Mar, the Nenets drive their countless herds of reindeer closer to the edge of the Barents Sea. There, in the summer season, strong winds will blow away hordes of mosquitoes, which cause a lot of trouble to the horned beauties. 

To see how the Nenets drive the deer, you need an experienced guide and a welcome from the locals to view the spectacle. It is easy to get lost in the tundra on your own and not find either deer or people! We advise you to contact the State Center for Arctic Tourism (, where you will be prompted for which dates you can plan such an adventure and will orient you at prices. 

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