Reindeer are indeed real mammals and are the same species as caribou (Rangifer tarandus). They are widespread throughout the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, the wild subspecies are called ‘caribou,’ while in Eurasia, both wild and domesticated animals are referred to as reindeer.
The First Nations People of Canada have historically depended on caribou for meat, clothing, and various household goods. However, reindeer were never domesticated in North America. In Eurasia, people began domesticating reindeer about 2,000 years ago, and the domesticated animals have evolved to be shorter and stockier than their wild counterparts.
The Wonders of Reindeer
Reindeer have incredible habits and adaptations that allow them to thrive in harsh conditions. They are known for their unique clicking sound made by tendons moving over bones in their feet. Both male and female reindeer have antlers, unlike other members of the deer family. Reindeer can move at different speeds, from a slow trot to a rapid gallop reaching speeds of up to forty-nine miles per hour over short bursts. They are also excellent swimmers but have never been known to fly.
Reindeer Myths Debunked
There are several myths surrounding reindeer, including the misconception that they aren’t real. Reindeer are indeed real and are members of the same species as caribou. Another common myth is that reindeer are wild animals, but in reality, they are domesticated animals that have lived alongside humans for thousands of years. Additionally, both male and female reindeer grow antlers, and they do not eat carrots as commonly believed. Lastly, while Santa’s reindeer may fly, real reindeer typically keep all four hooves on the ground.
Reindeer are facing serious challenges due to climate change and habitat loss. Wild reindeer and caribou populations have declined significantly in the last quarter-century, and domestic reindeer also face a grim future due to changing climate conditions. It is crucial to address these conservation concerns to ensure the survival of these remarkable creatures.
Are reindeer and caribou the same species?
Yes, reindeer and caribou belong to the same species, Rangifer tarandus.
Do female reindeer have antlers?
Yes, both male and female reindeer grow antlers, with females retaining their antlers until spring, as access to food is critical during their winter pregnancy.
Do reindeer eat carrots?
No, reindeer do not eat carrots. Their natural diet consists of lichens, which are a crucial part of their nutrition.
Can reindeer fly?
While Santa’s reindeer may be known for flying, real reindeer typically do not possess the ability to fly.