Reindeer cyclones are real, and you definitely don't want to get caught in one

By Mindy Weisberger
February 18, 2019, 10:48:28 AM EST

elk cyclone

Credit: Courtesy of PBS Nature and Maramedia


Vikings hunting reindeer in Norway were once confounded by "reindeer cyclones." A threatened herd would literally run circles around the fierce hunters, making it nearly impossible to target a single animal.

Filmmakers recently captured incredible aerial footage of one of these reindeer cyclones, which aired Feb. 13 on PBS in the documentary "Wild Way of the Vikings," a program about Vikings and the wilderness they inhabited around A.D. 1000.

One of the documentary's most striking scenes shows a re-enactment of a Viking hunt interspersed with real footage of reindeer herds. Reindeer were important to the Vikings for their meat, hides, antlers and bones, according to the film.

In the cyclone scene, a lone hunter (an actor playing a Viking) approaches the herd; he notches and releases an arrow. The footage that follows shows an actual herd of reindeer running in circles. As the swirling mass of bodies thunders along a circular path, an overhead camera reveals that the herd's momentum follows a spiral shape, drawing tightly toward the cyclone's "eye" at the center.

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