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Can Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer be real and not just a holiday tale?

Video footage of real reindeer with glowing noses has been captured by a Swedish research team using a thermographic camera.

The noses of reindeer at the Zoo of Nordic Animals in southern Sweden appear very bright compared to other parts of their bodies, in the video released by researchers at Lund University last week. The camera "sees" the heat given off by different parts of an animal's body, causing warmer parts to appear brighter and colder parts appear darker.

The fact that reindeer noses appear bright is consistent with a study published by Dutch and Norwegian researchers last year in the journal BMJ, which found that reindeer have a very rich blood supply to their noses.

"That means it can actually be a bit reddish because of the strong blood flow," said Ronald Kroger, a zoologist at Lund University who helped capture the new video footage.


Reindeer forage for food in the snow, and need to keep their noses warm in order to know what they're eating, researchers say. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

He said reindeer need to keep their noses warm in order to prevent them from going numb as they snuffle through the snow looking for food.

"They have to prevent them from freezing and to keep the sensitivity to know what they're eating," Kroger said in the video.

Reindeer's warm, glowing noses are just the opposite of the cold, wet noses of dogs. In the researchers' thermographic video footage, a dog has a very dark nose.

"Nobody really knows why it's cold in the dog," Kroger said. "That's what we want to find out."