Christmas Science: What You Should Know About Reindeer

Christmas Science: What You Should Know About Reindeer

Because of the song Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, these beautiful creatures are are synonymous with Christmas. Here are ten fascinating facts about reindeer that your kids will be delighted to know.

  1. In December, you can watch live reindeer cams at ReindeerCam.com (Caledonia, MI) or Animal Planet (Como Park Zoo in Minneapolis).
  2. Reindeer’s favorite foods are grass, moss, herbs, and berries.
  3. Reindeer and caribou are the same species but different subspecies. They are closely related to deer, elk, and moose. While there are many subtle differences between reindeer and caribou, in general, reindeer are domesticated, and caribou are wild.
  4. Domesticated raised reindeer are very friendly animals, who can be hand-fed, and trained to pull sleds, wagons and the like.
  5. Reindeer live in very large packs of sometimes thousands in Arctic forests.
  6. A reindeer’s hooves change with the seasons! In the soft, summer ground the hooves also become softer and more spongy. In the freezing, icy winter, the hooves harden and become sharper so that the edges can cut into the ice. These grooves prevent the reindeer from slipping on the ice and snow.
  7. Reindeers have a very thick coat made of two layers of fur. The bottom layer is woolly and the top layer is made of long, hollow hairs.
  8. Packs of reindeer are often hunted by wolves, polar bears, brown bears, and even sharks! Reindeer are really fast and migrate in group of hundreds to thousands, so they are not easy to catch.
  9. In the late 9th century, Ohthere of Hålogaland sent a letter to King Alfred the Great, in which he stated that he owned 600 domesticated reindeer, of which six were decoys that he used for catching more reindeer to bring into his herd.
  10. Unlike regular deer, both male and female reindeer grow antlers. The antlers look velvety because they are composed of a very blood-supply-rich material. Scientists are studying deer antlers to better understand bone cancers. Male and female reindeer shed their antlers in different seasons. These high calciumated, lost antlers are then consumed by rodents and other forest creatures.


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