The reindeer and caribou belong to the same genus and species – Rangifer tarandus; they are part of the Cervidae family, which includes deer, elk, moose, and wapiti.
According to the San Diego Zoo(opens in a new tab), in Europe, these animals are all called reindeer, and in North America, “reindeer” refers to the domesticated version and “caribou” refers to the wild population.
Many Arctic societies still rely on this animal for food, clothing and shelter materials. According to the Smithsonian(opens in new tab), the reindeer was one of the first domesticated animals.
Reindeer males grow to around 5.9 to 6.8 feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters) long and 28 to 53 inches (70 to 135 centimeters) tall from hooves to shoulder. Males weigh 143 to 529 pounds (65 to 240 kilograms), and females weigh 121 to 308 pounds (55 to 140 kilograms). Females are typically shorter, around 5.5 to 6.2 feet (1.7 to 1.9 m).
In these animals, both males and females grow antlers, according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks (opens in new tab). The skull’s frontal bone contains a stub called a pedicle that grows from it. These bony antlers are covered by a furry skin, called velvet, which is packed with blood vessels that provide oxygen to the growing bone.
According to the San Diego Zoo, male antlers can grow up to 51 inches (130 centimeters) and weigh up to 33 pounds (15 kg), making them significantly larger and heavier than female antlers, which can grow up to 20 inches (50 cm).
Do they have red noses?
Rudolph, the leader of Santa’s pack, has a dense network of blood vessels in his nose that contribute to his rosy schnozzle, Live Science previously reported. Medical researchers from the Netherlands and the University of Rochester in New York have found that reindeer nasal architecture has 25% more capillaries carrying red, oxygen-rich blood than humans do.
The dense network of blood vessels in reindeer noses is also essential for regulating the animal’s internal body temperature – reindeer do not sweat, so increased blood flow helps them stay warm.
Where do they live?
A large circumpolar area surrounding the North Pole is home to reindeer, as well as Alaska, Canada, Greenland, northern Europe, and northern Asia. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, their home ranges can reach 190 square miles (500 square kilometers).
The woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) can be found as far south as 46 degrees north latitude (northern U.S.); Peary caribou subspecies and Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) subspecies can be found as far north as 80 degrees north latitude. The Animal Diversity Web (opens in new tab) runs from the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology and crosses through Greenland, Svalbard, and other northerly regions.\
As a social animal, reindeer travel, feed, and rest in groups called herds. Herds of reindeer can be as many as tens to a few hundred animals, according to the San Diego Zoo. In the spring, herds can grow even larger — up to 500,000 animals. During the winter, herds travel 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to 3,000 meters (5,000 km) south to find food.
In the northernmost part of Russia, the Taimyr Peninsula is home to one of the largest and most studied herds. As BBC News reported (opens in a new tab), the Taimyr herd reached a peak of 1 million individuals in 2000, but dropped to 600,000 by 2016. Climate change may be playing a role.
The herd migrates from the calving ranges of the peninsula to the boreal forests to spend the winter; however, climate change has altered the timing of this migration, meaning young calves are still too small to make the trip, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
University of Alaska Fairbanks reports that breeding season lasts from August through September, and the female’s gestation period lasts about 7.5 months. In most cases, reindeer give birth to one young at a time, though they have been found to have up to four young at a time. The university said a reindeer calf weighing between 13 and 17.5 pounds (6 and 8 kg) at birth.
After the first hour of birth, calves are able to stand and within a week begin to eat solid food along with their mother’s milk. During their first year, these calves weigh between 145 and 165 pounds (65 to 75 kg). They are weaned completely after six months and start growing their first set of antlers around their second birthday. Reindeer reach maturity between 4 and 6 years old and live for 15 to 18 years.
In the wild, females tend to live for longer than males, with some reaching 15 years, while males are much more susceptible to predation after mating season and have an average life expectancy of 4.5 years, according to the University of Michigan’s BioKids page.
Are they rare?
According to the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), reindeer populations have declined by 40% in the past 21 to 27 years, making them vulnerable.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, there are currently around 3.5 million caribou in North America, 1 million wild reindeer in Eurasia, and around 3 million domestic reindeer in northern Europe.
Q1. What is the meaning of the name reindeer?
Ans: Originally, the word “reindeer” came from the Old Norse word “hreinin,” which means “horned animal.”
Q2. What is the speed of a reindeer?
Ans: Reindeer can swim 4 to 6 miles per hour (6 to 10 kilometers per hour) and run up to 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour).
Q3. What is the life expectancy of reindeer?
Ans: Reindeer live on average 15 to 18 years.
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