Reindeer cyclones are a real thing. Who knew? Excerpt:
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. [Photos: Ancient Arrows from Reindeer Hunters Found in Norway]
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.
Faced with this spinning reindeer stampede, any predator — wolf, bear or human — would have a very tough time targeting and overpowering a single reindeer, making this a formidable defense strategy, according to a statement from PBS.
Here’s the image of just such a reindeer cyclone:
That’s actually a pretty great defense against wolves, bears or men armed with primitive weapons. It’s not bad against a modern, ethical hunter either, as it makes singling out an animal for a clear kill impossible.
Against a hunter or two armed with firearms, hunters who (unethicall) don’t give a shit about how many animals they injure in the process and who are willing to fire indiscriminately into the mass, not so much.
But what I find fascinating about this whole thing is the resemblance to a school of fish, using a very similar, albeit 3-D, schooling tactic to prevent a predator from picking out a single fish.
Nature doesn’t always repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes. This is a really neat example.