Every reindeer is owned by someone and the ownership is marked to the ear of a reindeer. Using an earmark is set in the Reindeer Husbandry Act (848/1990): Each reindeer must be marked with the owner’s reindeer earmark which has been approved by the Association of Reindeer Herding Co-operatives on the recommendation of the board of the reindeer herding co-operative. Further provisions on reindeer earmarks are granted and given by decree (883/1990).

The earmark is cut to the sides and top of the ear. Describing the earmark starts from the tip of the right ear and goes down to the bottom.

Deeds and cuts of reindeer earmarks. Image: Reindeer Herders' Association.

There are around 12 000 earmarks in use. According to the Reindeer Husbandry Decree (883/1990 in Finnish), the deeds of the reindeer earmarks are: pistel, pykälä, hanka, poikki, haara, halki, päätä vita, alta vita, terotus, ketunkanto, vastahanka, reikä, reiästä halki, linnunvarvas, tiili, rappuhanka, hanka, hangan sisään and vatma. Combining deeds gives different, unique earmarks. It has to clearly differ from others used to avoid confusion. In addition, herders can use an ear tag as an extra mark. These are approved by the Association.

The Reindeer Herders’ Association is the authority in earmark issues and has the earmark registry. The Reindeer herding cooperative has to also keep a list of the earmarks used by their herders. A reindeer herder can have one earmark. The cooperative and Reindeer Herders’ Association can have two earmarks. The earmark of the Association is used in the reindeer of the Kutuharju Field Research Station.