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Fun Facts About Reindeer
Reindeer Are More Than Just a Legend
You might think reindeer are fascinating because they pull Santa’s sleigh, they can fly, one in particular has a red nose, or the idea that one named Rudolph was ostracized by the others in his species. As you read on, you will find there are many other reasons reindeer are fascinating animals.
Reindeer - Animals from the Ice Age
It is thought that reindeer are mammals from the ice age, originating about 15,000 years ago in South America and migrated to the Arctic regions of the world such as Greenland, Russia, Norway, Canada, Alaska, and of course the North Pole. Reindeer roamed the earth at the time as woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers during the Pleistocene era.
Anthropologists have found evidence of early man cave drawings of reindeer in France and Spain, near the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago.. When the site was first found, it was called "L'âge du renne" (the Age of the Reindeer), because of the extensive cave drawings done by the Magdalenian people.
Reindeer and How Rudolph Came To Be
Reindeer Are Part of the Deer Family
Reindeer are the same species as caribou, but because of some genetic variations, they are different subspecies. Both are part of the deer family just like moose and elk. They are also closely related to cows, pigs, goat, and buffalo. Reindeer are a part of the deer family who live in the colder parts of the globe. In Europe, they are called reindeer, in North America, reindeer are called caribou. Reindeer and caribou are part of the same species but are different subspecies.
Reindeer and Caribou Similarities:
- Have long, coarse hair with hollow cores which keeps them insulated in the colder climates - although reindeer fur is thicker and denser.
- Have specialized hooves that are adapted for walking in snow and digging.
- Are similar in color - however Reindeer may be slightly lighter.
- Grow antlers - in both male and female - female reindeer antlers are bigger than female caribou antlers.
- Both are part of the deer family
Reindeer and Caribou Differences
- Reindeer are shorter, fatter and slower - and more sedentary. Caribou are taller (have longer legs), slimmer, and faster. Reindeer have sturdier looking bodies.
- Reindeer tend to stay with their heard when chased - Caribou scatter when chased.
- The nose bridge, or face, of the Reindeer is flatter than Caribou.
Reindeer Migrate Thousands of Miles
Reindeer are highly energy efficient animals.Caribou migrate to the Arctic, each year, going further than any other land mammal by traveling extraordinarily, more than 3000 mi or over 5,000 km. Some reindeer migrate only 1,000 miles. .
While migrating, they may travel about 12 to about 35 miles (19-55 km) a day and run as fast as 37 to 50 miles per hour (60-80 kilometers per hour).
Temperature, snow, predators and insects trigger the start of the migration for reindeer.
There are two types of reindeer that are now extinct. The Arctic reindeer of Eastern Greenland, which became extinct around 1900. And the Queen Charlotte Islands caribou in Canada from Queen Charlotte Island, British Columbia.
Svalbard reindeer in Norway, are the dwarf species of reindeer, weighing only 130 to 170 pounds (60-80 kg), and are only about 2 ½ feet all (80 cm).
A reindeer's lifespan is usually about 15 years.
Several thousand years ago, some species of reindeer were domesticated. Caribou are wild reindeer. Male caribou are larger than male reindeer. Reindeer are more sedentary, and graze in a smaller range than caribou.. It is the caribou that roam long distances.
Reindeer stick together when they are herded. Caribou scatter.
Reindeer are well suited for the extreme conditions of the arctic cold.
Caribou are leaner and have longer legs than reindeer. They migrate further and are undomesticated. Reindeer are about 8 to 10 inches shorter than caribou.
Reindeer that are raised on farms are friendly, curious, and very likable animals.
There are many similarities between the reindeer and caribou. Both are part of the genus Rangifer and species Tarandus.
Reindeer don’t migrate too far a distance between where they winter , caribou migrate further within a grazing range.Male reindeer are smaller than male caribou, but female in both species weigh about the same.
Reindeer Did You Know Facts...
Veterinarians can tell the age of reindeer by how flat their front teeth have been worn down. Their incisors also wear down as they age. Older reindeer have tiny little nubs left and have trouble eating.
- As reindeer walk, the tendons in their feet stretch across the bones in their feet, so as their tendons move, they make a clicking sound.
- Reindeer can swim at about five miles per hour, can run about ten miles per hour, and travel overall about 100 miles a day.
- Reindeer have a trot that can give the illusion of them leaping.
- In the winter reindeer live in small groups numbering 4-30 reindeer. In the spring reindeer will form herds of 50,000 to 500,000 large. In the summer they live in larger groups. All groups are led by the male or female who has the biggest antlers.
- Reindeer have 4 chambers to their stomach, just like cattle, sheep, goats, and giraffes.
- In 2011 by University College London, it is believed reindeer can see ultraviolet light. Researchers have concluded that the ability to see ultraviolet light helps the reindeer to see contrasts that would otherwise blend into the snowy landscape.
More Fun Facts About Reindeer
Reindeer tails are very short, as longer tails may be prone to frostbite. But long tails help swat at mosquitoes, so reindeer tend to stay in cold fields, and open, windy areas, where mosquitoes would not bother them.
Reindeer can swim for miles in water. Their unique hollow fur allows them to float in water and their hooves help propel them.
Reindeer feet are very wide. Their hooves are well adapted to give them traction on ice. Hair grows between their toes in the winter.
The feet of reindeer adapt to the various seasons. In summertime, the ground tends to be wetter and softer. The pads of their feet become similar to sponges, giving them more traction in the wet tundra. When winter arrives, the pads of their feet shrink so that the hooves are exposed. These hooves cut into the ice and snow to stop the animal from slipping. They also use their hooves to dig in the snow, known as cratering, to search for the lichen, a type of moss they eat.
How Do Reindeer Keep Warm
Reindeer have a very warm coat that insulates them against the cold. They have large hooves, which helps them survive in the extreme cold conditions and snow in the Northern parts of the world.
Reindeer noses take the cold air and warm it before it enters their lungs. Their noses are covered with 1 cm of hair to help keep them warm.
Reindeer hair is very unusual. Their hair is hollow, similar to straw, which is a very unique quality. Air gets trapped inside the hollow separate hairs. The air gets trapped close to the reindeer’s body by their thick winter coat and gives the reindeer insulation. Their hollow hair also allow the reindeer to float while they are swimming.
The chest and upper body of the reindeer stay warm at 101.5 degrees fahrenheit. Their legs are not covered with fur. The lower legs only have tendons, and hooves, and ligaments, which work fine in cold temperatures.
When reindeer get too hot, they pant like dog where the heat is released from the hot, moist air they are exhaling. Reindeer hardly have any sweat glands. They get rid of an extra heat through their legs and antlers. Blood vessels also sit close to the surface of the skin and help their body heat get released.
They have thick fur made up of a thin soft under hair and fur made up of a hollow outer coating that keeps them very warm in temperatures tha are about 70 to 80 degrees below zero.
Both male and female reindeer have antlers. This is quite unusual because in most species, only the male have antlers. Their antlers are made of bone, and the animals shed them every year. The males usually shed them in late November, the females shed them in the springtime.
Reindeer differ from ordinary deer in many ways. Male and female reindeer both have antlers. Male antlers can be extremely large, some reaching over 5 feet (1.5m) tall. Some Canadian female reindeer have no antlers. After the breeding season, the male reindeer lose their antlers and will regrow them in March. The females keep their antlers longer. The antlers contain a large reserve of calcium and help the pregnant female with the developing fetus’ bones, when there is not enough calcium in the food. After the baby reindeer is born, the female will lose her antlers. The antlers are made up of an upper and lower part.
When the antlers first grow each season, they are soft and rubbery and covered with a velvety furry covering. The antlers are at first filled with blood and marrow, but then they harden. Reindeer will remove this velvet skin by rubbing it against trees. This velvet contains a chemical called pantocrine, which is a heart stimulator. Russian farmers keep reindeer specifically for the manufacture of this drug.
They usually mate in the winter,with a gestation period of about seven to eight months.
Gestation is about 224 days.
The females give birth to one baby, and the new calf takes their first steps as soon as one hour after being born. Within a couple of hours, the newborn can run for a few miles. This gives them the ability to be less vulnerable to predators. The mother’s milk is about 20% fat, which help reindeer babies grow rapidly. (In comparison, cow’s milk has 5% milk fat and eggnog is about 29% fat). Within a month, baby reindeer are usually weaned from their mother.
They normally mate from the end of September until early November. Males fight for females by locking antlers and trying to push the other out of the way. A dominant male can have a harem of about 15 to 20 females they will mate with.
Reindeer calves are often prey for Golden Eagles and Wolverine. Polar bears and Brown bears and the Gray Wolf hunt reindeer of all ages.
Reindeer Can Do So Much More Than Fly
Reindeer Are Big Animals
Female reindeer are about 5 feet to almost 7 feet tall and weigh about 170 to 260 pounds (79 to 120 kg). The males are about 6 to 7 feet tall and weigh about 200 to 460 pounds (92 to 210 kg), although some could weigh as much as 700 pounds (315 kg). Shoulder height ranges from about 3 feet to 6 feet). Their tails are only 5 ½ to about 8 inches ong (14 to 20 cm).
They have huge appetites and although reindeer are mostly herbivores, flying reindeer may have a wider appetite. So when you leave the cookies out for Santa be sure to leave a few extra for Rudolph and his friends.