Monday, December 06, 2010

ABC Wednesday
The letter this week is U
....which stands for Ungulate

An Ungulate is any hoofed animal, - a hoof being an enlarged toenail.

Why hooves?

Hooves are usually broad and flexible, and the animal can walk and dig even in thick snow.  Because the animal walks and runs on its toes the rest of the foot extends up into the leg, making the leg particularly long and increasing the swiftness of their stride. The ungulate we are going to consider today lives in the cold arctic tundra, is capable of surviving in extremely cold weather and in places where food is not plentiful.  They eat plants and lichens and are the only deer that can be domesticated.

Of course you have already guessed, -  the most popular Ungulate of the season is the reindeer, a majestic mammal from the arctic and subarctic, some of whom have taken up with Santa Claus at the North Pole, become magical creatures and fly his sleigh through the skies on Christmas Eve, landing on rooftops to give Santa access to chimneys and other modes of entry where both good and naughty children live.

Good children are supposedly left toys, and naughty kids gets lumps of coal in their stockings, I'm told, although it never happened to me (smirk).

The Reindeer, au natural, feeding on the tundra of the north and using its strong hooves to dig up sustenance from the frozen ground.

Reindeer, beloved of Santa and with star dust sprinkled on them which enables them to
fly through the air (so I have been told).

In the poem 'A Visit from Saint Nicholas' (attributed to Clement Moore)  the poet mentions a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer.

"The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,'
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.
'Now Dasher, now Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On Comet! on Cupid! on, Dunder and Blixem!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!'

Santa and his reindeer as  depicted in 1862
when this poem was first published.

I know this all to be true, as does any child of northern climes where winters are snowy and a quick trip outside on Christmas morning will still show you the mark of the reindeers'  hooves and the runners of Santa's sleigh in the snow.**

For more fanciful U's visit here at ABC Wednesday

**depending upon how early the milkman came with his horse drawn sleigh (yes, I lived that long ago!)