Unwrap the Magic: Discover These Fascinating Reindeer Facts for an Early Dose of Christmas Spirit!
Due to their association with Christmas as Santa Claus' magical flying helpers, people often wonder: are reindeer real?
To answer that question, yes, of course they are real! These antlered mammals are found roaming the Arctic tundra and surrounding boreal forests of North America, Europe, and Siberia. In those remote settings, reindeer are seen as a bit of a mystery. (But before you ask: no, reindeer cannot fly!) To demystify them, there are some surprising facts about reindeer.
Learning about reindeer would make for some fun Christmas trivia to pull up with at any holiday party you attend! Plus, heading into the winter season with this newfound knowledge just may make you want to book a winter vacation to a location where you can spot some reindeer yourself. Read up on these facts and let me know which one surprised you the most.
There's no difference between reindeer and caribou.
Reindeer and caribou are the same species (Rangifer Tarandus); they're simply referred to differently in different parts of the world. Reindeer is the name for the species in Eurasia, while North Americans refer to them as caribou. Another difference is in their domestication: all caribou are wild animals, whereas reindeer are oftentimes domesticated.
Believe it or not, reindeer are not named for the reins from a sled.
Reindeer stems from the Old Norse word Hreinin (translation: "horned animal:"). The word for caribou was derived from the Mi'kmaq Qalipu, which, to them, meant "snow shoveler." This likely has to do with their antlers and ability to trudge through snow and ice!
On a scarier note, a caribou's biggest predator is the golden eagle.
It's the circle of life. Golden eagles tend to hunt for caribou calves in the fall and spring, although reindeer are pack animals who have strength in numbers. Other predators include gray wolves, Arctic foxes, mountain lions, and several species of bear.
Reindeer can warm up the cold air with their noses before it gets to their lungs. Cool huh? The surface of a reindeer's nose consists of nasal mucus that is consistently heated up by some warm blood vessels, which then heats up any cold air that enters through the nostril.
A reindeer's cloven hooves expand in the summer.
This is because their hooves harden during the wintertime, allowing them to trudge harder surfaces and break through ice. They expand in the summer when things warm up a bit, and there isn't as much snow or harder fixtures to work through.
A reindeer's legs make a clicking noise when they walk.
This is so that it helps them stay together in packs through a blizzard - or weather conditions that you think might interfere with their sight, but reindeer can see ultraviolet light. This helps them in a storm, and they can also make sense of the images to find food and stay safe.
Reindeer and caribou migrate more mileage than any other land animal.
There are a variety of reasons for this, too! Reindeer are known to migrate anytime they need to find a new location for newborns, when they need different food sources, or when their current location is infested with bugs or other creatures that bother them. In total, they can migrate up to 3,000 miles per year.
Reindeer come in different colors, depending on location.
If a herd of reindeer resides mostly in northern regions, they will more than likely have a lighter shade to their coat; the opposite is said for those that reside in southern regions. Their summer coat is usually a richer color than their winter coat.
In some areas, reindeer are herded.
They never become nearly as domesticated as other animals, but those who call the Arctic and subarctic areas home may herd reindeer for milk and transportation.
A reindeer's preferred food is lichen. (Reindeer moss)
It's a fungi that you won't really see unless you live in an open space or field. However, reindeer love this plant so much that it has eventually been deemed "reindeer lichen, or reindeer moss."
Both males and females grow antlers.
That's right! Reindeer are unlike other deer species in which the males only grow antlers. Female reindeer grow antlers to help protect their food during the wintertime, especially while they are pregnant and have babies. Here's the deal breaker....most male reindeer have lost their antlers before December comes around. Therefore, in reality, Rudolph would have had to have been a female!
Reindeer spend up to forty percent of their lives in snow.
That's a lot of snow, but it's true! They can adapt to both spring weather and very cold weather. (That's good news for Santa.)
I hope you enjoyed these tidbits of information, and I plan on trying to find a herd of reindeer in Alberta so I can post some real photos for all of you!