Reindeer

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Features of the European Reindeer

Reindeer have learned to adapt to the harsh and often barren environments of their homelands. They have evolved to withstand these environments through all seasons.

Reindeer Features: Coat and Hair

 

Reindeer have coats that change colour with the seasons. Reindeer fur is thick to protect the skin through the coldest periods of winter when temperatures are well below 0C. Reindeer coats are made up of very dense layers of hair with an outer layer of hollow hair to protect the finer layer beneath. The outer layer contains up to 5000 hairs per square inch. The inner layer is fine and woolly with approximately 1300 hairs per square inch. These layers of fur insulate, helping reindeer maintain their core temperatures even when the air temperatures are extremely bitter. When reindeer rest or lay down on the snow, the snow doesn't melt because the fur retains body heat.

The outer hairs offer more than insulation value. Reindeer swim, and the hollow hairs act as air pockets making it easier to for them to stay afloat. These outer hairs also keep the icy water off their hides.

In winter, reindeer grow long hair to protect their muzzles from the snow as they sniff and graze for lichen, their primary winter food.  

Reindeer Features: Sense of Smell

Reindeer rely heavily on their above average sense of smell which help them locate the lichen beneath snow-packed plains. Their sense of smell also alerts them to danger. They have large eyes, which may deceive their sight capabilities. Their eyesight is one of their weakest senses.

Reindeer Features: Created for the Tundra

Reindeer have unique bone structures inside their noses which enable their nostrils to open wide, warming cold air before it enters the lungs.

Due to less than adequate eyesight, reindeer have found other ways to stay in touch with their herds in blizzard conditions. Their leg tendons snap when they walk resulting in a clicking sound.

Reindeer Features: Antlers

Reindeer antlers are made of keratin and assorted proteins, but the inner core is bone. Reindeer are the only species of mammal in which both males and females grow antlers. They are also the only mammal with antlers that regenerate. Reindeer antlers grow directly from the skull. They are soft and flexible, and because they emerged from living tissue, they are also living tissue with an extended vascular system, warm to the touch.

The antlers show dominance and hierarchy in the herd, but they have other purposes as well. Females keep their antlers through the winter which helps them compete fairly for food. They drop their antlers in spring during calving season. Male reindeer shed their antlers in the winter and grow them back in the spring.

Reindeer have been important to the northern indigenous people of Scandinavia throughout known history. Reindeer are fascinating animals that have adapted to their traditional environments in ways that allow them to survive even the harshest temperatures and blizzards.


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