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The reindeer is popular in our modern culture because of Christmas and Santa Claus’. You can usually find them in the Asian, European, and North American regions at the far out north. These areas have rugged landscapes and frigid winter temperatures that are perfect as their natural habitat.

Image source: Pixabay

Reindeer come in 14 subspecies, and although two of them are already extinct, their population is still in 7 figures (about 3.5 million in North America, 1 million in Eurasia, and 3 million in northern Europe). But don’t get overconfident, the IUCN has listed the reindeer as ‘vulnerable’ because of its population decline of more than 35% over the last 25 years. Now, here are some important facts about reindeer that you need to know...

Caribou is the other name of the reindeer.
They love to eat herbs, mosses, ferns, grasses, shoots, and leaves.

Unlike horns which are never shed, antlers fall off and grow back larger each year. Male reindeer begin to grow antlers in February and female reindeer in May. Both sexes finish growing their antlers at the same time but shed them at different times of the year. Typically, males drop their antlers in the late fall, leaving them without antlers until the following spring, while females keep their antlers through the winter until their calves are born in the spring.

They make a “grunting sound.”
Reindeers have good mobility in a snowy environment.
Researchers at University College London discovered that reindeer are the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light.
They have diverse predators.

Reindeer are the only deer species to have hair completely covering their nose. Their specialized nose helps to warm incoming cold air before it enters their lungs, and it’s also an excellent sniffer. Their good sense of smell helps the reindeer find food hidden under snow, locate danger, and recognize direction. Reindeer mainly travel into the wind so they can pick up scents.

A calf can weigh from 5 up to 20 lbs.
Reindeer can form a giant herd of more than 100,000.
They have enhanced night vision.
Reindeer spend up to 40% of their lives in snow, so they’ve developed special adaptations to help them survive the chilly conditions. Their cloven hooves (divided into two) spread their weight, helping them stand on snow and soft ground. Their hollow fur helps to trap heat, and they’re good swimmers,  too!
Reindeer were among the last animals we learned to domesticate.
Believe it or not, reindeer actually do have red noses like Rudolph! Well, sort of… Lots of tiny veins circulate warm blood around their nose, heating up the air they breathe in so they don’t get cold - clever!
In contrast to most deer species where only males have antlers, both male and female reindeer can grow antlers annually.
A reindeer's longevity is roughly up to 15 years in its natural habitat and up to 20 years in the care of humans.
Their antlers are edible (apart from eastern medicine or a health supplement), you can use them to make gelatin, or for baking recipes.


How many reindeer does Santa have? Sometimes they say only eight reindeer pull Santa Claus’ sleigh, while others clearly remember Santa’s 12 reindeers. So how many reindeer does Santa have? The genuine answer is 8 or 9 (if you count Rudolph.) Below is a list of Santa's reindeer and the typical order that they go on his sleigh (although that does vary from time to time).

Rudolph Dasher ~ Dancer ~ Prancer ~ Vixen ~ Comet ~ Cupid ~ Donner ~ Blitzen

Illustration source:

Here is another surprising fact... ALL of Santa's reindeer are females except for maybe Rudolph. It seems that male reindeer shed their antlers in early December, while female reindeer retain their headgear all winter long. In pretty much every depiction of St. Nicholas making his iconic Christmas Eve run, the team pulling his sleigh are sporting antlers, ergo, said reindeer are female. Before we rest our case, there’s actually another practical reason for Santa to have hitched his harnesses to an all female-powered team: Female reindeer have about a 45% greater fat-to-body-mass ratio than their male counterparts. This extra tissue serves as insulation that keeps them warm in frigid conditions as low as minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and baby, it’s cold outside—especially in the upper atmosphere. Of course, the extra fat layer means extra weight, so how do the female reindeer manage to fly so fast while hauling a prodigiously not-so-slim man and the world’s largest sack of toys?

Magic of course!

Okay, okay, so maybe the main reindeer squadron is female, but what about Rudolph, you ask?

Well, as it turns out, Rudolph, created in 1939 by department-store copywriter Robert L. May, may in fact be the only male reindeer in the bunch.

Before finding fame in song as well as on film and television, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was the hero of what amounts to an anti-bullying-themed children’s story. In the book’s original cover art, Rudolph’s red nose may be shining beacon-bright—but he’s not sporting antlers, only cute little nubbins. So, is Rudolph’s antler deficit due to the fact he’s a juvenile reindeer… or is it because he’s a boy? We’ll leave that up to you.

Santa Doug has many, many reindeer at the North Pole, somewhere in the vacinity of over 2,000 of them. The most famous reindeers are the ones he uses to pull his sleigh on Christmas which is Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen are female, Comet Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph are male. 

Did you know that at the North Pole, Santa has over 2,000 reindeer in his care? Mrs. Claus has many specialties but one of them is actually training all of the reindeer. So Santa and Mrs. Claus have a whole herd of reindeer!

Of course, the most famous reindeer of all are the ones that Santa uses to pull his sleigh on Christmas Eve. You've probably heard of them - Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. These nine reindeer are known around the world for their speed, agility and magical abilities.  

But did you know that not all of Sant's reindeer are male? In fact, four of them - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen - are female. The other five - Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph  - are male. 

Together, Santa and his team of reindeer, trained by Mrs. Claus work tirelessly to bring joy and wonder to children all around the world on Christmas Eve. They truly are a special group.


Photo of Santa’s sleigh with reindeer (Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources)

Listen to a Podcast on North Pole Radio all about Reindeer with Matt Feeney

Click Here

Santa Doug Reindeer Cards (I will typically cut out the descriptions, put on back of the photo and then laminate them)

Click Here for .doc | Click Here for .pdf

Children's Reindeer Stories   (written by Santa Doug)

Print these stories out and share them with your children.

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