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Ten Interesting Facts About Reindeer

When people think of reindeer, they often visualize Rudolf and his friends pulling Santa's sleigh. Cute as this image may be,  there is so much more to these fascinating creatures traditionally from Europe's northern tundra.


1. In Europe's Reindeer Age 16,000 years ago, reindeer were abundant. Primitive humans relied heavily on them for their skins to keep them warm, meat to sustain them, and bones to create tools.

2. Reindeer are the only type of deer in which both male and female reindeer have antlers. Female reindeer retain their antlers until they give birth to their young in the spring. Keeping their antlers throughout the winter ensures they are able to compete for food while pregnant. Male reindeer shed their antlers each winter.

Reindeer are the only mammals that grow new sets of antlers annually.

3. Reindeer eat certain types of lichen that grow in sub-arctic climates. These plant materials help to keep their blood warm so that they can survive the icy winters.

4. The largest reindeer species, the Finnish forest reindeer, measures approximately 240 centimeters in length from snout to tail. Finnish forest reindeer have longer legs than other reindeer species. They have adapted to forest life by evolving with wide hooves, which help them dig through the snow for lichen, and antler pairs that grow closer together than those of other reindeer sub-species. These differences help Finnish forest reindeer move through woodlands unobstructed.

5. To the Sami, the indigenous people of northern Finland, reindeer are important animals both in their culture and for sustenance. They have approximately 400 words for the food, tools and other products and parts taken from reindeer.

6. In Finland, reindeer herding and husbandry are occupations only residents to the area can employ. In other parts of Scandinavia, reindeer husbandry is restricted to indigenous people.

7. Male reindeer have much louder calls than females, especially during rutting season. When bellowing is necessary, they inflate a small pouch just under the skin of their throats.

8.  Reindeer have a strong sense of smell, and it's that sense of smell that assist them in finding the lichen under the snow. They can sniff out the plant material easily, even through snow that is 60 centimeters deep.

9. Reindeer were built for the snow and cold. Their bodies react to changes in temperatures by making adjustments. When temperatures become frigid, they have the uncanny ability to lower the temperature in their legs to near freezing levels. This keeps their core body heat even. 

For winter grazing they grow their facial hair long enough to cover their mouths, protecting their muzzles from the snow.

10. Reindeer are strong, energy-efficient running machines. A 20 pound new calf can outrun a man, and reindeer in general are more efficient than most other land mammals.

Reindeer have a long history in culture and myth. That history has given way to further study to learn about how unique they are. There is more to reindeer than Christmas ornaments. 2012. All rights reserved.