25 True Reindeer Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Posted by , Updated on December 22, 2018

One true reindeer fact everyone should know is that they don’t fly. If you didn’t know that, and I just crushed your childhood dreams, then I’m sorry. As much as we might wish they flew, they don’t. It’s the sad reality gravity and physics deals to us land-dwellers. But, fear not, there’s plenty to learn about reindeer, nevertheless. These noble creatures of the north have been on the Earth for a long time, surviving many dangers, like the Ice Age freezing them to death and homo sapiens hunting them for food. They migrate great distances and can run almost as fast as your car. Despite these great feats and their ability to survive extinction, thanks to climate change, they aren’t doing so hot. So, pour one out to Rudolph and lets learn a few things about these majestic creatures. Here are 25 True Reindeer Facts You Probably Didn’t Know.


They survived the last Ice Age and much of their DNA today is informed by it.

reindeerSource: http://sciencenordic.com/reindeer-genes-show-clear-influence-last-ice-age

Reindeer live all across the Northern Hemisphere, from Canada to Nordic Countries to Russia.

Reindeer_mapSource: http://sciencenordic.com/reindeer-genes-show-clear-influence-last-ice-age

In North America, reindeer are also called caribou.

caribouSource: https://blog.nwf.org/2010/12/reindeer-twelve-fascinating-facts-about-these-amazing-creatures/

Caribou is a French word which means, "snow shoveler."

caribouSource: http://mentalfloss.com/article/29470/11-things-you-might-not-know-about-reindeer

North American caribou sometimes migrate up to 3,000 miles (4828.032 km) a year.

reindeer migrationSource: https://blog.nwf.org/2010/12/reindeer-twelve-fascinating-facts-about-these-amazing-creatures/

In the poem, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas," the reindeer are described as tiny. This likely means Santa's reindeer are the R.t. platyrhynchus species of Norway.

santaSource: http://mentalfloss.com/article/29470/11-things-you-might-not-know-about-reindeer

In the winter, reindeer hooves shrink to give them a better grip, and in the summer, they are soft and spongy for extra traction.

reindeer hoovesSource: https://www.earthtouchnews.com/wtf/wtf/10-amazing-facts-you-probably-didnt-know-about-reindeer/

Male reindeer grow from 28 to 53 inches tall (70 to 135 centimeters) and are around 5.9 to 6.8 feet (1.8 to 2.1 m) long.

caribou antlersSource: https://www.livescience.com/56310-reindeer-facts.html

Both male and female reindeer have antlers.

reindeer antlers male femaleSource: https://www.livescience.com/56310-reindeer-facts.html

Reindeer shed their antlers every year. Since they're a strong source of calcium and minerals, the woodland rodents snack on them.

reindeer in snowSource: https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/15-things-you-didnt-know-about-reindeer

Male and female reindeer can be tough to tell apart at a distance. Their size is the only real giveaway, and even that's not a sure thing.

reindeer in snowSource: http://mentalfloss.com/article/29470/11-things-you-might-not-know-about-reindeer

They're excellent swimmers. Their top speed can hit six miles per hour (10 kmph) if they really need to move.

swimming caribouSource: https://www.earthtouchnews.com/wtf/wtf/10-amazing-facts-you-probably-didnt-know-about-reindeer/

Along with being great swimmers, they're fast runners. They can run up to 50 mph (80 kmh).

reindeer runSource: https://www.livescience.com/56310-reindeer-facts.html

Reindeer are herbivores, sticking to a healthy diet of vegetables and leafy greens.

reindeer herbivoreSource: https://www.earthtouchnews.com/wtf/wtf/10-amazing-facts-you-probably-didnt-know-about-reindeer/

In the frosty northern parts of the world, like Norway, reindeer provided a valuable source of meat for human tribes during the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods.

reindeer meatSource: http://mentalfloss.com/article/29470/11-things-you-might-not-know-about-reindeer

Reindeer are considered the last domesticated animal. However, many scientists argue they still aren't fully domesticated.

reindeer farmSource: https://www.thoughtco.com/reindeer-history-and-domestication-170666

The Russians were the first to domesticate reindeer around 3,000 to 1,000 years ago.

russia reindeerSource: https://www.thoughtco.com/reindeer-history-and-domestication-170666

Reindeer are social by nature and run in herds. These herds can vary widely from 10 to 500,000 reindeer.

reindeer herdSource: https://www.livescience.com/56310-reindeer-facts.html

Caribou caves are regularly hunted by golden eagles in the late spring and fall.

golden eagleSource: https://blog.nwf.org/2010/12/reindeer-twelve-fascinating-facts-about-these-amazing-creatures/

The entire body of a reindeer was once found inside a Greenland shark.

greenland sharkSource: https://blog.nwf.org/2010/12/reindeer-twelve-fascinating-facts-about-these-amazing-creatures/

Reindeer are currently listed as "vulnerable" according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Over the past two decades, they've had a decline in 41 percent of their population.

reindeer vulnerableSource: https://www.livescience.com/56310-reindeer-facts.html

The word reindeer is from the Norse word "hreinn" which just means deer.

reindeer in norwaySource: https://blog.nwf.org/2010/12/reindeer-twelve-fascinating-facts-about-these-amazing-creatures/

The color of reindeer eyes change from golden in the summer to a deep blue in the winter. A team of scientists concluded it was because of a mirrored layer behind the retina called "tapetum lucidum."

reindeer eyeSource: https://www.earthtouchnews.com/wtf/wtf/10-amazing-facts-you-probably-didnt-know-about-reindeer/

Reindeer calves are born running, literally. Within 90 minutes, they can run, and in a few hours, they can run for a few miles.

reindeer calfSource: https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/15-things-you-didnt-know-about-reindeer

A certain breed of reindeer known as Rangifer tarandus do have red noses. Of course, they don't light up like Rudolph's.

rangifur tarandusSource: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-scientific-reason-why-reindeer-have-red-noses-166263479/

Photo: Featured Image - MaxPixel.net (Public Domain), 1. Guérin Nicolas (messages), Rangifer tarandus (Wroclaw zoo) - young - face, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 2. Jann Kuusisaari, Reindeer calf, CC BY 2.0, 3. Walter Baxter, The eye of a reindeer, CC BY-SA 2.0, 4. Arnstein Rønning, Reindeer in Norway -Rekvika -Troms - Norway, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 5. Alexandre Buisse (Nattfodd), Reindeer in Kebnekaise, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 6. WikipediaCommons.com (Public Domain), 7. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 8. Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Reindeer Herd on Ikpek Beach, CC BY 2.0, 9. WikipediaCommons.com (Public Domain), 10. Manfred Werner - Tsui, Reindeer farm, Inari, Suomi - Finland 2013-03-10 f, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 11. Manxruler, Svalbard reindeer exhibition at the Polar Museum in Tromsø, CC BY-SA 4.0 , 12. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 13. Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson (Public Domain), 14. Lester Kovac, Caribou crossing Leaf River, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 15. Pxhere.com (Public Domain), 16. Eric Kilby from Somerville, MA, USA, Reindeer Antlers Contrasted Against the Snow (24165335876), CC BY-SA 2.0 , 17. Walter Baxter, Cairngorm Reindeer, CC BY-SA 2.0, 18. WikipediaCommons.com (Public Domain), 19. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 20. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 21. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 22. Pixnio.com (Public Domain), 23. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 24. WikipediaCommons.com (Public Domain), 25. Wikimediacommons.com (Public Domain)

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