Did you know that reindeer are also called caribou? Did you know that they are a species of deer and shed their antlers every year? There are so many fascinating facts about reindeer. Are you curious about Santa’s reindeer? Check out these reindeer facts for kids to find out the best information about reindeer!
What is a Reindeer?
Reindeer are also known as caribou. In North America reindeer living in the wild are called caribou. When they are domesticated they are called reindeer. Domesticated animals are animals kept as pets r that live on a farm. In Europe, they are call reindeer all the time.
The word caribou comes from the Mi’kmaq word qalipi meaning “snow shoveller.” Mi’kmaq is a North American Indian Tribe. The scientific name, reindeer species rangifer tarandus.
Reindeer are mammals and are a species of deer. Deer families are part of the Cervidae family and include animals such as deer, elk, moose, and wapiti.
There is one main species of Caribou/Reindeer but 7 subspecies. The 7 sub-species include Barrenground Caribou, Svalbard Caribou, European Caribou, Finnish Forest Caribou, Greenland Caribou, and Woodland Caribou
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 Northern Europe, Russia, and Greenland. Let us not forget that they also live with Santa at the North Pole.
A reindeer’s habitat is a tundra. A Tundra is a vast, flat, treeless land, in the Arctic region, they are covered in snow most of the time.
Reindeer are herd animals, meaning they live in large groups. A large group of reindeer is called a herd. Herds of reindeer migrate throughout the year. To migrate means to move from place to place.
Reindeers do not stay in the same place all year round. During the winter reindeer herds migrate south where it isn’t as cold. During the summer they migrate north. Reindeers migrate around 1,200 miles every year. Some reindeer herds will travel more than 3,000 miles per year. Reindeers migrate further than most animals in the world.
What do Reindeer Look Like?
Reindeer look like large deer with four legs, short tails, and antlers. A reindeer’s fur can come in a variety of colors including shades of brown, gray, or rust-like color. They have white fur around their neck and parts of their back. Reindeers have a double coat of fur to keep their body warm and protect them against the cold, harsh climate they live in.
Male reindeer can weigh up to 700 pounds. Males are larger than females, sometimes a male can be doubled the size of a female. On average reindeer weigh between 240-700 pounds.
Reindeer have split hooves. Their hooves are split in half making it look like they have 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 and help them walk on ice and rocks.
If you are ever close to a reindeer you will notice they make a clicking sound when they walk. Reindeer have an ankle tendon that rubs over a bone causing that clicking sound. They use the clicking sounds to track each other when walking through blizzard-like conditions and are unable to see.
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 stand 8ft tall! That is one tall deer!
Reindeer are the only deer where both males and females grow antlers.
Male reindeer shed their antlers every winter. Female reindeer keep their antlers all winter, they shed their antlers every spring.
Once they shed their antlers, new ones will start to grown. While the antlers are growing in they are rubbery, living masses of blood and marrow. When they are finished growing in the bones begins to harden. Both male and female antlers take a couple of months to fully grow a set of antlers.
What do Reindeer Eat?
Reindeer are herbivores meaning they eat plants. reindeer do not eat meat. They eat lichen, a type of moss, grass, and plant that grows on rocks and trees. Because reindeer love lichen so much it is often referred to as “reindeer lichen.”
During the winter reindeer will look for food under the snow. They use their hooves to dig holes in the snow.
Looking for snow is a lot of work. Oftentimes reindeer will have to dig through many layers of snow to find food. During the warmer months, reindeer will eat plants that have grown in the tundra. Reindeer will eat up to 12 pounds of food every day.
Reindeer mate in the Fall. During the Fall male reindeer also called bulls fight each other using their antlers to win a female. Female reindeer also called a cow will mate with the winner of 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. The average human baby is between 7-8 pounds when they are born.
Shortly after birth, a reindeer will be able to run. Like other mammals, calves feed on milk from their mother when they are born.
A reindeer’s milk has more fat than cow’s milk. The fat-filled milk helps the calf grow big and strong. Calves will be able to eat food with their mom at a week old.
When a calf is about two months old their antlers will start to grow. They start off as small bumps and grow bigger and bigger each year.
At around 3 years the antlers will start to shed and regrow each year.
A calf will stay with its mother for about two years. After the age of two, the calf will become and an adult and live with the herd.
One of the reasons reindeer live in herds is for protection against predators. A predator has a better chance of attacking one reindeer than a group of reindeer.
Reindeer predators include gray wolves, grizzly bears, brown bears, wolverines, and golden eagles. Some people believe that polar bears would be reindeer predators however reindeer are usually too fast for a polar bear to catch them. Native people have also hunted caribou for food, clothing, and shelter.
Reindeer Fun Facts for Kids
Reindeer are the only mammal that has eyes that change color. In the summer their eyes look like a golden brown color. In the winter they look blue
They are part of the deer family.
Reindeer antlers are food for other animals. After reindeer shed their antlers, smaller animals and rodents eat them.
Reindeer milk is very rich. It contains nearly 22% butterfat. In comparison, cow milk contains between 3-5% butterfat.
They can run up to 50 miles per hour! That’s one fast deer!
They had a lifespan of 15 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity.
Although continued climate change may affect the reindeer population, they are not listed as a threatened or endangered species.
For thousands of years, caribou have been essential for native people living in the most northern regions of the world. Caribou meat has been used for food, fur, and skin for clothing and tents and antlers for tools.
Some species of reindeer have the ability to make clicking noises as they walk, They do use the clicking sounds to communicate with other members of the herd during bad weather and blizzards.
Reindeer play a very important role during the Christmas season. As many of you know reindeer have a very important job, they pull Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve.
Without reindeer how would Santa be able to deliver presents to all the boys and girls of the world? It’s a good thing that the special reindeer who are part of Santa’s sleigh team are well taken care of at the North Pole.
Have you ever asked yourself do all reindeer fly or how do reindeer fly? Well, to answer your question, the answer is no. Only Santa’s reindeer fly.
Now that you know only Santa’s reindeer fly you may be asking how do they fly? The answer is, magic!
Many believe that Santa’s team of reindeer has to be sprinkled with the magic of Christmas to fly.
Can you name all of Santa’s Reindeer?
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Blitzen and we can’t forget Rudolph!
Check out these Magic Reindeer Food Recipes for Kids.
Click here for more Christmas activities for kids
Downloadable reindeer coloring pages: Page 1 Page 2