from: The Toledo Zoo and Aquariumhttp://www.toledozoo.org/SafarEmail/2016/12-14-16.html
Reindeer: Bucking Tradition
Thanks to beloved stories and songs, we associate reindeer with the holidays. However, our knowledge of the amazing creature has also been influenced by pop culture. While we have enjoyed the story of Rudolph for the last 75+ years, reindeer have been domesticated for use as pack animals and for food, shelter and clothing for the last 3,000 years. Here is the true story of reindeer and some holiday myth-busting!
Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) live in herds as large as 500,000 in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, northern Europe and Asia. (Although technically when referring to the wild animals, they are called caribou...but we will get to that later.) A reindeer’s most impressive feature is their antlers. Reindeer are unique as both male and female reindeer grow antlers each year, with females being about 20 inches long while male antlers can be up to 51 inches long. These antlers are used as weapons, to attract mates and to clear snow and ice to find food.
At their shoulder, reindeer stand between 33-59 inches tall and can weigh 121–470 pounds, depending on sex and time of year. Reindeer eat moss, herbs, ferns and grass, consuming between nine and 18 pounds of food per day. They vary in color depending on habitat and time of year and are covered in hair from their nose to the bottom of their feet. They have two layers of hair: an undercoat of fine, soft wool near the skin and a guard coat that is long and hollow to trap air serving as insulation and assist in buoyancy in water.
Reindeer are specially adapted for cold weather. Their nose actually warms air as they breathe and condenses the water in the air to keep their mucus membranes moist as they travel into the wind picking up scents to locate food. Additionally, in the summer, footpads soften for traction on wet ground, while in the winter they tighten to reveal the rims of the hooves to aid in walking on and digging in snow and ice.
Now, the myth busting-
Reindeer and caribou are the same animal- caribou refers to wild animals while reindeer is the domesticated term.
While reindeer cannot really fly- they are great jumpers and quite quick for such a large creature. Their top speed is 50 mph on land and 6.2 mph in the water.
If they did walk on your roof, you would hear click, click, click as they make a loud clicking noise when they walk due to a tendon slipping over their foot bone.
While they don’t travel the world in one night- they are known to migrate up to 1,000 miles for food and birthing.
Rudolph’s red nose wouldn’t really be necessary, as reindeer are the only mammals that can see ultra-violet light aiding in viewing plants in the glowing white tundra.