How much do you really know about reindeer? Kids know that reindeer are the ones that pull Santa’s sleigh. I mean without reindeer how would Santa deliver all the presents? But, what else do you know about these great animals? Do you know that they are a deer species or they love to eat “reindeer lichen?” What is reindeer lichen anyway? Did you know that they live in North America, Europe, Greenland, and Russia? Read our reindeer facts for kids below. Hey, do you really want to impress Santa? The next time you visit with Santa you can tell him a fact or two about reindeer.
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What is a Reindeer?
Reindeer are also known as caribou. In North America, reindeer are called caribou in the wild. When they are domesticated they are called reindeer. Domesticated animals are animals kept as pets or that live on a farm. In Europe, they are only called reindeer.
The word caribou comes from the Mi’kmaq word qalipu meaning “snow shoveller.” Mi’kmaq is a North American Indian tribe.
Reindeer are mammals and are a species of deer. Deer family or also known as the Cervidae family and include animals such as deer, elk, moose, and wapiti.
There is only one species of Caribou/Reindeer but 7 sub-species. They are Barrenground Caribou, Svalbard Caribou, European Caribou, Finnish Forest Caribou, Greenland Caribou, and Woodland Caribou
Scientific Name: Rangifer Tarasndus.
Reindeer can run up to 50 miles per hour! That’s one fast deer!
Where do Reindeer Live?
Reindeer live in some of the coldest places on earth. They live in the Northern parts of North America in Canada and Alaska. They also live in Europe, Russia, and Greenland. Lets us not forget with Santa at the North Pole.
Reindeer live on tundras. Tundra is a vast flat, treeless land covered in snow most of the time in the Arctic region.
Reindeer are herd animals. They live in large groups called herds.
Herds of Reindeer migrate throughout the year. Migrate means moving from place to place.
During the winter reindeer herds migrate South to find a place that is less cold. During the summer they migrate North.
Reindeer usually migrate around 1,200 miles a year. Some herds will travel more than 3,000 miles per year. That is one of the world’s largest migrations.
What do Reindeer Look Like?
Reindeer look like large deer with four legs and antlers.
A reindeer mostly has different shades of brown soft fur with white fur on their neck and parts of their back. Their fur may also be gray or rust like color.
Reindeer have a double coat of fur to protect them against the cold, harsh climate that they live in.
Male reindeer can weight up to 700 pounds. Males are larger than females, sometimes a male can be doubled the size of a female. On average reindeer weight 240-700 pounds.
Reindeer have split hooves. This means their hooves are split in half making two toes. Hooves are hard coverings that protect the reindeer’s feet. They use their hooves to dig for food in the snow. The outer edges of their hooves are sharp while help them walk on ice and rocks.
Reindeer’s have an ankle tendon that rubs over a bone causing a clicking sound when they walk. That clicking sound helps the reindeer keep track of each other especially when they can’t see in bad weather.
Reindeer are usually between 4-5ft tall, not including their antlers. Their antlers are around 3ft tall. If you add their height along with the height of their antlers, some reindeer can be 8ft tall! That’s really tall!
Did you know that reindeer are the only deer in which both males and females grow antlers? It’s true both male and female reindeer can grow antlers.
Male reindeer shed their antlers every winter. Female reindeer will shed their antlers in the spring. Once they shed their antlers, new ones will start to grow in.
While reindeer antlers are growing they are actually rubbery, living masses of blood and marrow.
The antlers will grow to start in late winter through until around August. When they are finished growing the bone begins to harden.
What do Reindeer Eat?
Reindeer are herbivores meaning they are plant eaters. They eat lichen a type of moss, grass, and plant that grow on rock and or trees. Because reindeer love lichen so much it is sometimes called “reindeer lichen.”
In the winter reindeer will look for food under the snow. They will use their hooves to dig holes through the snow. They will continue to dig through layers of snow until they find food.
In the warmer months, they will eat plants that have grown in the tundra.
Reindeer can eat up to 12 pounds of food every day.
Fall is mating season for reindeer. During the fall male reindeer also called bulls fight each other using their antlers for the female.
The female reindeer also called a cow will mate with the reindeer who won the fight.
A female reindeer is pregnant for 7-8 months. She will give birth to 1-2 babies in the spring. A baby reindeer is called a calf. Calves are usually 10-11 pounds when they are born.
They can run within a few hours of being born. Calves will drink milk from their mother after they are born. A reindeer’s milk has more fat than cows milk. The fat-filled milk helps the calf grow big and strong. They will be able to eat food with their mom after a week old.
When they are two months old, the calf’s antlers will start to grow. when They will start off as small bumps and growing bigger every year.
A calf will stay with their mother for up to two years. After the age of 2, the calf will become an adult reindeer and become part of the herd.
One reason reindeer live in herds is for protection against predators. A predator has a better chance of attacking one reindeer than a large group of reindeer.
Some reindeer predators include gray wolves, grizzly bears, brown bears, wolverines, and golden eagles.
Polar bears don’t usually hunt reindeer because they cannot catch them.
Reindeer Facts for Kids
- Reindeer are the only mammal that has eyes that change color. In the summer their eyes look like a golden brown and in the winter they look blue.
- After reindeer’s shed their antlers, smaller animals and rodents eat them.
- Reindeer milk is very rich. It contains nearly 22% butterfat. In comparison cow milk between 3%-5% butterfat.
- Some species of reindeer have the ability to make clicking noises as they walk. They do that to communicate with other members of a herd during bad weather or blizzards.
As many of you know reindeer have an important job, they pull Santa’s sled every Christmas Eve. Without reindeer how would Santa be able to deliver all his presents?
How does Santa’s reindeer fly? Well, it’s magic! Some say that Santa’s reindeer have been sprinkled with a magical dust that makes them be able to fly.
Can you name all of Santa’s Reindeer?
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen. Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and we can’t forget Rudolph