The reindeer is typically the 'animal of the month' in December! However, there is a lot about it that people do not know. For example, did you know that both male and female reindeer have antlers that they shed periodically?
- Reindeer are a species of deer that live in the Arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. They are sometimes referred to by different names, such as Caribou in North America.
- They prefer to travel and live together in herds. A herd may vary in number from twenty to up to a thousand! However, not all animals live in herds―males prefer to wander on their own, whereas females and young ones stay in a herd.
- Among the lesser known facts about the caribou is that this animal is particularly skilled in swimming, and can easily swim across huge rivers. However, they prefer snow over water.
- We know that our dear friend the reindeer is a tundra animal. So, how does it manage to stay warm in the freezing conditions of the Arctic? Well, they manage to withstand the harsh tundra climate because their fur has an outer layer of hollow, tubular hair. This helps provide insulation in cold conditions, and also provides buoyancy when they are in water.
- Their diet consists of leaves, herbs, lichens, etc. In fact, one of the lichens they primarily eat is named reindeer moss, after them!
- You know that both males and females shed their antlers, however, the time at which they shed sets them apart. Males (called bucks) tend to shed their antlers around the end of winter seasons, and eventually regrow them in the month of January or February. Females (who are called does) and calves, on the other hand, tend to shed their antlers around the months of March or April. There are many reasons why reindeer shed their antlers.
- Their sound is known as a bellow. They have an inflatable pouch under their throat, which helps increase their sound during the mating (rutting) season.
- They have large hoofs, which are nearly circular, and act as snowshoes! Thus, their large feet aid them in walking in the snow and also help them dig under the snow for food. Also, reindeer can lower the temperature of their legs to just above the freezing point. This is how, along with their coat, they manage to prevent potentially fatal loss of heat from the body.
- Young fawns, less than or around one year old, make a clicking sound while walking, which helps others track them, in case they go astray.
- Most of the reindeer that are seen today are domesticated. They provide us with butter, meat, milk, and cheese. In fact, reindeer milk is rich in both proteins and fat!
- Reindeer can run at a constant speed of up to forty miles an hour, and are extensively used in Arctic regions to pull sleds. In fact, even a newborn reindeer can easily outrun a human athlete!
Sadly, according to many wildlife experts, reindeer are said to be endangered, as their numbers have dwindled of late, due to hunting and loss of habitat. Let's try to make some efforts to protect these graceful creatures by spreading awareness about them, lest they become a figment of our imagination, like Santa's flying helpers.