Science explains Rudolph's red reindeer nose

Leave it to a bunch of scientists to figure out one of the holiday season's greatest mysteries: why Rudolph is a red-nosed reindeer.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
Reindeer head
Rudolph, before he got all snuffly. Tiia Monto/Wikimedia Commons

Last year, a scientist cracked the mystery of how Santa Claus manages his gift-delivery feats using futuristic technology. This year, dedicated scientists have finally revealed an explanation for how Rudolph, Santa's lead reindeer, got his red nose.

If you recall the legend, Rudolph was a bit of an outcast thanks to his bright and shiny red nose. All of the other reindeer might not laugh and call him names if they knew his nose was really the result of an issue with the microvascular flow in his nasal mucosa.

A collection of Dutch scientists contributed to a paper titled "Microcirculatory investigations of nasal mucosa in reindeer Rangifer tarandus (Mammalia, Artiodactyla, Cervidae): Rudolph's nose was overheated."

According to the paper, "The exceptional physical burden of flying with a sleigh with Santa Claus as a heavy load could have caused cerebral and bodily hyperthermia, resulting in an overworked nasal cooling mechanism that resembles an overheated cooling radiator in a car: Rudolph suffered from hyperemia of the nasal mucosa (a red nose) under more extreme heat loads during flight with a sleigh."

Of course, scientists don't like to put all their scientific eggs into just one basket of science. The paper's authors acknowledge other theories for the red nose, including the common cold, alcoholic intoxication, or a parasitic infection of the nostrils. I think the overheating explanation is the least likely to make little kids cry.

Thank you, scientists, for sucking some of the magic out of Christmas while simultaneously making it just a little more awesome.

(Via io9)