Reindeer, or Caribou as they are known in North America, are a deer species adapted to cold Arctic conditions.
Amazing Facts About the Reindeer
Also known as Caribou, Reindeer are probably most famous for the role in pulling Santa’s sleigh at Christmas. Like all deer species, Reindeer have impressive antlers, but they are actually the only deer species in which both males and females have them. Males generally have larger antlers and will likely lose them during the winter time, which means Santa’s Reindeer may be female!
Where do Reindeers live?
Reindeer spend their life in the cold, inhabiting the arctic and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere including North America, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Finland, Russia and Mongolia.
What do Reindeers eat?
A mince pie for Santa and a carrot for the Reindeer, that’s what we leave out on Christmas eve, in the UK at least. But, what about in the wild? Reindeer are herbivores, so eat only plants feasting on a mix of grasses, shoots, leaves, fungi and mosses.
How many calves do Reindeers have?
Reindeer mate between September and November, when males will compete with other males to win the right to mate with multiple females. Gestation lasts for around 234 days, at which point the female will give birth to one calf in a relatively isolated and predator-free area.
Do Reindeer migrate?
Yes! Reindeer are constantly on the move. But how far they travel depends on the location and sub-species. Forest Reindeer may be more dispersed in their woodland homes and travel shorter distances than Tundra Reindeer that come together in large herds and can travel thousands of kilometres between forest wintering grounds in summer tundra. Females, or cows, like to get a head start and leave several weeks before the males, who set off later.
How are Reindeer adapted to the cold?
Reindeer thrive in cold climates, but that’s because they are well adapted to their habitat.
How do Reindeer keep warm?
Reindeer have two layers of fur. The underlayer consists of fine, dense hairs while the outer shaggier layer consists of hollow hairs that help insulate and keep them warm. Their nose also has a heat-exchange system that warms air on its way into the lungs and cools it on its way out.
Why do Reindeer not slip on ice?
Reindeer have large hooves with two toes and two dew claws. The toes spread to distribute their weight as they walk and the dew claws provide grip when walking on uneven ground. The hooves are also used for digging in snow and as paddles when swimming.
But that isn’t the only adaptation. Hoofs change seasonally. In summer hoof pads are think and spongey for walking on softer ground, but they shrink in winter to expose the rim of the hoof, which is better for scraping ice and also reduces exposure to cold ground.
How are Reindeer adapted to the darkness?
When you live as far north as Reindeer do, you can’t be afraid of the dark. In winter it is nearly always dark, and in summer it is nearly always light. For us, this can be challenging to deal with. But, Reindeer, have come up with an interesting strategy – they don’t live by their internal body clock. While our bodies release hormones on a daily cycle that influences when we wake and sleep, Reindeer don’t. Hormone release simply responds to whether it is light or dark outside.
Can Reindeer see in the dark?
Our eyes are not adapted to living in darkness, but Reindeer eyes are. They can see ultraviolet light, which means they are still able to see even during the winter months when the sun doesn’t shine.
How to Reindeer communicate in the dark?
Reindeers live in herds and migrate together. But, when it is dark and snowy it can be hard to keep track of everyone around you. Rather than relying on senses such as sight, Reindeer use sound. Tendons slip over bones in the feet as they walk, producing a clicking sound, which helps them to stay together. The noise is also thought to be louder in larger animals so can be a signal of dominance.
Are Reindeer domesticated?
Reindeer are perhaps most famous for their role in pulling Santa’s sleigh, but in reality, humans have been exploiting Reindeer for thousands of years. They are some of the last animals to be domesticated, and have hunted for meat and fur and used for riding and transport of goods. Nowadays, Reindeer are often used for commercial purposes around Christmas where they can be seen along with Santa and his elves; but, find out more about that here.
Where did Santa’s Reindeer get their names?
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen. Santa’s Reindeer were first named in the 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. The original names were a bit different though //with Donner and Blitzen first known as Dunder and Blixem, but the names evolved over time into the names we know and love. Rudolph was not actually a part of the original crew, but was added by Robert L. May in 1939 as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.
- Type: Mammal
- Diet: Herbivore
- Lifespan: 15 years
- Size: 1.2–1.5 m
- Weight: 110–320 kg
- Habitat: Arctic tundra, forests and boreal forest
- Range: Northern regions of North America, Europe, Asia, and Greenland
- Scientific name: Rangifer tarandus