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Forget Rudolph -- real-life critters win glowing reviews; Just for kids

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Think St. Nick is the only guy with a fondness for Rudolph? Think again. Reindeer ranchers say these arctic bucks and does are playful little dears.

Take 13-year-old Lance T. His family keeps reindeer Holly and Nicholas at its Trees & Treasure Christmas Tree Farm in Quincy, Ill.

"They're fun to be around," Lance says. "Their hooves really make a clicking sound when they walk, just like in 'The Night Before Christmas.' "

Gordon Poest, who wrote the book "Raising Reindeer for Pleasure and Profit," did his research firsthand -- and says reindeer-raising is fun.

"Two things really surprised me about reindeer, when I first started raising them," he says: "How smart they are and how playful they can be."

"Follow the leader" is a favorite reindeer romp. "They'll also play with anything movable in the pens -- anything they can push around," Poest says.

Lance T. is pretty sure his reindeer are Earth-bound. "But if they could fly, I'd be the first one to take a ride."

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