Someone You Should Know: Bowdle Couple Raising Santa’s Backup Reindeer
BOWDLE. S.D. – With the holidays nearing, many are out doing last minute preparations. That may include buying presents or cooking up a big meal. For one couple in Bowdle, this means making sure their reindeer are ready, just in case they’re needed on Christmas Eve.
“What we have now are mostly the girls that were born here, and they age from 13 to about 4,” says Carla Knecht.
Carla and her husband David don’t live on an ordinary ranch. At Tip Top Reindeer Ranch they’re no cattle or pigs, instead, you guessed it, seven reindeer.
“They are in the caribou class, but its true reindeer and they’re just a little bit smaller,” explains Carla.
The Knechts have been raising the antlered pets since 1990.
“They eat alfalfa, but they only eat the leaves of alfalfa,” says Carla.
Over the years, the pair has owned an upwards of 30 reindeer. They bought the original animals in Idaho, and breed their own when they can.
“They’re friendly animals; they aren’t like dogs where you can just walk up and pet them,” says Carla. “But they are fairly easy to catch.”
Like man, the animals have different personalities.
“There’s Chloe; she’s pretty much the boss,” says Carla. “Snowflake, even though she’s Chloe’s mother, she’s way laid back and easy to take care of, easy to halter.”
But, they all have one thing in common. One magical thing: they’re trained to pull Santa’s sleigh.
“If Santa needs them, he sends a signal and then they take off to wherever,” says Carla.
“So Rudolph, Donner and Vixen, if [Santa] runs into problems with one of those, he renames these,” adds David. “This is Snowflake, but she could be Donner on Christmas, you never know!”
This means Santa’s backup reindeer live right here in South Dakota.
“We never know if they’re here on Christmas Eve, or if they aren’t, they might be called off on duty,” says Carla.
The Knechts don’t keep their talented pets to themselves. During the holiday season, they travel to Omaha, Council Bluffs and even Sioux Falls to give kids and their parents a chance to meet Rudolph’s right hand reindeer.
“Seeing everyone’s face light up, it’s magical,” says David.
The reactions are what bring the couple joy during the holidays.
At their display in 2016 Carla said, “I had a guy this morning say this is our annual thing that we do every Thanksgiving morning, we bring the kids, we come and see the reindeer. So it just kicks off some people’s holidays.”
Carla and David will set up their reindeer display in Sioux Falls on Thanksgiving day this year too. They’ll be at the Lewis Drug on 69th and Louise from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., and the Lewis Drug on 41st and Minnesota from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
In order to own reindeer, the Knechts say you have to have a state and USDA license.