A HERD of reindeer is roaming the Westcountry for the first time in 800 years.
The six animals are now roaming free at the 35-acre Trevarno Gardens in Cornwall, after being imported from Scandinavia.
The only place where reindeer live in the wild in the UK is the Cairngorms in Scotland, where they were re-introduced in the 1950s. Reindeer were hunted to extinction in the UK in around 1200.
Richard Cox, general manager of the gardens, which stands in the 750-acre Trevarno Estate, hopes the herd will breed, expand and provide a spectacle at Christmas.
"They came here in November but we were acclimatising them and getting them used to people – we wanted to get that right before they were introduced to the public," he said.
"They are incredibly nice animals. They are absolutely delightful, very peaceful and calming. There were no reindeer herds in the South West and we've always had a passion about creating a traditional Christmas for people. Reindeer are a big part of that."
The move has been criticised by a reindeer centre in Scotland, which has questioned whether the Westcountry's climate was suitable for the animals. Mr Cox said the estate had called in experts to ensure the reindeer were happy with their new home.
"We have looked into it very carefully," he said.
"We have taken advice from experts and, provided the feeding situation is right and the location where they are kept is right, then I think that the South West is an acceptable location."
The cost of importing the herd is thought to be under £10,000, including transportation. Mr Cox said he hoped the first baby reindeer would be born in May 2010.