Everybody knows the story of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. But how much do we know about the real deal?
Reindeer, or, as they are sometimes known, caribou, live in the chilliest parts of the world. Their names mean ‘horned animal’ and ‘snow shoveler’ respectively – the latter being a reference to the way they search for food. Unfortunately, two species of reindeer have gone extinct. Of the remaining twelve, the biggest is the Woodland caribou, which can weigh up to three times that of the average human being. It is native to Canada and has the priviledge of appearing on the Canadian quarter. So I guess you could say it was a ‘cash-ibou’. No? I’ll show myself out.
Unlike any other member of the deer species, female reindeer are able to grow antlers. They do differ from the males’ a little, firstly in size (the females’ are smaller) and secondly in that the males will lose their antlers in spring, but females keep theirs until summer. They are covered in a velvet layer which is surprisingly soft to the touch, and are second in size only to the moose.
Reindeer’s coats are also super soft, and especially thick to deal with the cold climates they inhabit. In fact, they’re made up of two layers – a woolly undercoat and a long-haired coat on top, the hairs of which are hollow in order to hold air and keep the reindeer warm.
Reindeer are able to detect light better than human beings, and one subspecies, the arctic reindeer, is able to change its eye colour from gold to blue in order to better detect predators in different seasons. They are exceptionally adapted to get away from any hunters, too, as some species are able to outrun an olympic sprinter just a day after being born. Reindeer are also very capable swimmers, and entire herds will happily swim across large lakes or rivers, especially when migrating.
Essentially, reindeer are pretty badass. They can outrun us, they outweigh us, and they probably have more friends than us too. Plus, they get to work with Santa doing pretty much the best job in the world – 364 days holiday and free snacks at every house you visit? Sign me up.
Yesterday’s post: The Best Christmas Films
Tomorrow’s post: Mince Pie Recipe