Description of Reindeer
The Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) is described as a large Deer in the order of Artioldactyl and classified as a ruminant mammal of the family Cervidae. Ruminant animals are even-toed, cud-chewing, hoofed, usually horned mammals which have a stomach divided into four (occasionally three) compartments. Examples of ruminant mammals are cattle, sheep, goats, deer, and giraffes. Their hooves are large and sharp enabling them to travel across large distances and areas consisting of snow and ice.

Reindeer are characterised by having deciduous antlers which are borne by both male and female reindeer. Reindeer are also characterised by making long migrations, travelling further North during the summer months for fresh grazing and returning to the more temperate climates of the South in the winter for shelter. The Reindeer family also includes the elk, moose, caribou, and deer. The Reindeer differs from other deer in that both sexes carry antlers.

The origins of the word 'deer' comes from the Middle English word 'der' meaning beast and  from the Old English word 'dor'. The origins of 'rein' comes from the Old Norse word 'hreinn'

Species of Reindeer

There is only one species of Reindeer but there are about 20 sub-species. One of these sub-species is the American which is collectively referred to as the Caribou, a wild reindeer. Reindeer are semi-domesticated caribou. Reindeer tend to be lighter than the caribou of North America.


Facts about where Reindeer live and what they eat!
Reindeer are native to Northern climates - North America and Northern Europe

The cold climate, common habitat is the tundra (A treeless area between the icecap and the tree line of Arctic regions, having a permanently frozen subsoil and supporting low-growing vegetation such as lichens, mosses, and stunted shrubs)
The diet of Reindeer consist of grass, moss and lichen


Basic Facts about Reindeer
The name of a male is referred to as a buck
The name of a female is referred to as a doe

The name or offspring, or a baby Reindeer, is a fawn
The average size of a litter is one or two

The collective name for a group of Reindeer is a herd
The sound made by a Reindeer is referred to as a bellow

Facts about the Size of Male Reindeer
Fully grown they reach the height of 46 inches

An adult can weigh up to 300 pounds


Cool and Fun Facts about the life, behavior and personality of Reindeer

          Females tend to stay in herds whereas males are more solitary

          Males join the herds for the rutting season in September

          Both male and female reindeer grow antlers

          Antlers are shed during the winter

          Their broad hooves act like snowshoes!


Reindeer are of the family Cervidae-which means deer.

In the case of reindeer, males & females both grow antlers, that are deciduous, solid antlers which grow from permanent bases or pedicles on the frontal bones of the skull; genus-Rangifer (reindeer and caribou), species-tarandus (reindeer).  That’s the technical/scientific description.  Farm raised reindeer are curious, friendly, likeable animals. They are easy to fence, feed and train to pull.  Exhibition at Christmas and brood stock sales make them profitable, too!

Reindeer look a lot like their wild North American cousins, the caribou, but are somewhat (8-10 inches) shorter, and there is a difference in colour. Reindeer are believed by many to be the first domesticated animals with a written reference to herding in a 9th century letter from Norway’s King Ottar to Alfred the Great which mentioned his fine herd of over 600 reindeer. 

Both male and female reindeer grow antlers each year.  When they are growing, the antlers are soft, rubbery, and the living mass of blood and marrow is covered with a furry skin.  The antlers grow rapidly and during this period the reindeer are said to be “in velvet”.  The antlers are finished growing in August, harden, and the “velvet” is vigorously rubbed off.  The bulls then begin to rut.  They become aggressive (remember, they are animals, keep safety in mind).  Their necks swell.  They become protective of the females in the herd, and the breeding season of several months begins.  The older bulls generally lose or “drop” their antlers first, usually late December or early January, with the remaining bulls following this process until as late as March.  The females generally keep their antlers until calving time, 7 months from when they were bred.  Then the antler growing process is repeated all over again.  The antler when in velvet can be sold to a number of buyers for the Oriental market.  Hard antler when it has dropped can also be sold to a variety of buyers for craft and other uses.

Gestation is about  224 days. The calves are usually single births with that flurry of activity beginning in April.  Twin births are extremely rare in reindeer. The calves are up nursing and walking very quickly, normally in less than an hour. They weigh between 8-14 #s at birth, grow rapidly and some can easily weigh 90 # when they are 4 months old. By then they have already grown their first set of “Rudolph” antlers.

Did you know that male and female reindeer both have antlers? Even the calves produce antlers. Antlers are sometimes called "racks".

Caribou are the only other deer where males and females have antlers. The antlers will fall off after several months, but don't worry- they grow back.

Reindeer calves weigh about 14 pounds when they are born. Adult females weigh about 162-187 pounds while the males 200-220 pounds on average. An adult reindeer stands about 3 1/2- 4 feet tall. That is the average size of a typical 7-8 year old child! How tall are you compared to a reindeer?

Calves are born between May and June and grow very quickly so they can keep up with the herd. They can stand and walk within minutes of their birth. Calves are born with teeth so they can start eating right away. They also drink milk from their mothers.

Reindeer live in cold, snowy places- like close to the North Pole. Who else do you know that lives at the North Pole?  Reindeer can be found in northern parts of North America, Asia, and Europe where it is colder.  How do they keep warm you ask? Well they have thick woolly fur. Their hair is hollow inside. This provides them with a form or insulation. It also allows them to lie in the snow without emitting heat and melting the snow. This way they can stay dry (and warmer). In the summer, their fur thins out to help them stay cool.

Reindeer have large hooves that spread apart as they walk on the snow. They act like snowshoes and prevent the reindeer from sinking in the snow! Have you ever tried walking with snowshoes?  These special hooves also help them look for food beneath the snow.  The tendons in their hooves create a clicking sound when they walk. 

Reindeer travel together to look for food. We say they travel in herds. These herds can range from 1,000-10, 000 reindeer!

Wild reindeer are herbivores. That means they eat plants. Reindeer enjoy eating high quality leaves, stems and buds. They really like edible mushrooms. Do you like mushrooms?  They also eat lichen which is a moss that grows on the ground. .  Reindeer can be selective in what they eat.

Reindeer are very strong and can carry a load that weighs as much as they do!