Ethnic differences in alcohol intake among male reindeer herders were studied, since historical evidence suggests that Lapps drink more than Finns and since the considerable freedom of the herding occupation may imply a high risk for alcohol problems. In 1988, 2001 men answered a mail questionnaire including questions on alcohol intake over the past 12 months. The mean alcohol intake was 22.3 g/day among the Lapps and 13.2g/day among the Finns (P less than 0.001). The percentage of heavy drinkers (20 g or more daily) was 33.9 among the Lapps and 19.1 among the Finns. The mean frequency of getting drunk was 35 occasions/year among both Lapps and Finns. An analysis of variance showed that alcohol intake was significantly related to age, marital status, region and being of Lappish origin, but not to being a full-time reindeer herder. A significant interaction between region and marital status was also detected. The Lappish reindeer herders drink more than their Finnish counterparts. The ethnic difference is not, however, very large when compared with the stereotypic view of the drunken Lapp.