Dec 23

With the holiday season just around the corner, children around the world are eagerly awaiting the time when Santa will dust off his sleigh and call upon the services of his trusty reindeer to help him deliver gifts across the globe. But when Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen aren’t helping Santa with his deliveries, how do they spend the rest of their year? Here at ARKive, we thought we would take a look at what normal life is like for Rudolph & Co….

A unique deer

Believe it or not, reindeer, also known as caribou in North America, are the only deer species where both males and females sport antlers. Reindeer have a circumpolar distribution and inhabit tundra, open woodland and the mountainous slopes of the Arctic and sub-Arctic, where they feed upon a variety of lichens, mosses, herbs, ferns, grasses and other greenery. Recently, a team from UCL discovered that reindeer may be one of the only mammals that can see in UV light, an adaptation to make food and predators easier to spot in the snow.

Reindeer photo

Stamina and speed!

Some populations in North America undertake an annual migration to the Arctic of 5,000 km, the furthest of any land mammal! Over short distances, they can reach impressive speeds of between 60 and 80 kmph. Reindeer can also swim easily, and migrating herds will not hesitate to swim across a large lake or broad river. Adults can maintain a speed of 6.5 kpmh in the water, and when pressed can swim at 10 kmph!

Reindeer photoReindeer photo








A sociable species

A social deer, this species forms large regional herds of up to 50,000 to 500,000 individuals which band together at certain times of year. The rut takes place in October, with females giving birth to one or two young the following spring. Weaned at about 6 months old and reaching sexual maturity at 3 years, reindeer can live up to 20 years. Their main predators are bears and wolves.

Reindeer calf photo

Reindeer and people

Reindeer and humans have a long history, with some people having herded reindeer for centuries for their meat, hides, antlers, milk, and perhaps most famously, for pulling sleds, the oldest form of transport in the north!

Reindeer photo

You can find plenty more reindeer photos and videos on ARKive, and to really get into the festive spirit, why not make your very own reindeer mask? We would love to see pictures!

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher