Donner, Blitzen, Stranger, and Cupid

San Diegans discover that the North Pole isn’t the only place to fall in love with reindeer!
  • 1930s
  • 1950s

In 1933, intrepid adventurer Fred Lewis played Santa for the people of San Diego by bringing two reindeer—dubbed Donner and Blitzen—to the Zoo from Alaska, offering the city the first exhibition of this species. And what delightful representatives of their wild brethren!

“Beautiful creatures they are, friendly too,” reportedly a 1934 issue of ZOONOOZ. “Especially Donner the buck. He loves to have his nose petted and his ears rubbed.” In May of 1934, the duo became a trio when Blitzen gave birth to an adorable fawn. It was a few days before anyone got a good look, however, as Blitzen stood guard over her baby, head lowered, ready to charge anyone who dared approach. The baby was named “Stranger,” in honor of the ship Mr. Lewis used to bring many iconic animals to the San Diego Zoo.

The reindeer games continued, and Donner and Blitzen later added another fawn to the family. Keepers, with a mind toward raising a whole “Santa’s sleighful” of reindeer, named the newest baby Cupid.

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