Wrap up warm, gang – we’re journeying north to learn ten fascinating reindeer facts…

Reindeer facts

1) Reindeer live in the Arctic tundra and damp forests of Greenland, Scandinavia, Russia, Alaska and Canada. In North America, reindeer are known as caribou – pronounced ‘kar-i-boo!’

2) As the name suggests, reindeer are a species of deer. They are the only deer species in which both the male and female can grow antlers. In fact, males’ antlers can grow up to a whopping 1.4 metres in length and have as many 44 points, called ‘tines‘.

3) Reindeer can live for up to 15 years in the wild, although domesticated reindeer (reindeer that are cared for by humans), can live for as long as 20 years.

Reindeer facts: image of reindeer

4) When grazing, a reindeer’s preferred food is a lichen – a fungi, moss-like plant that’s often found in high, open spaces. In fact, it’s so popular with reindeers that it’s now become known as ‘reindeer lichen!’

5) Humans have hunted reindeer for thousands of years for their meat, milk, fur and antlers – which can be fashioned into tools. For groups of people in Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden and Finland), Russia, China and Mongolia, reindeer herding is an ancient and important part of their culture.

Reindeer facts: image of large reindeer antlers

6) Male reindeer can grow up to 1.2 metres tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 250 kilograms – that’s over three times the weight of an average person! Females are a little smaller than males.

7) These beautiful beasts may be big, but they are still the target of hungry predators! Wolverines, bears, and even eagles are just some of the animals that prey on reindeer.

8) 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 facts: image of two reindeer in the snow

9) In Frozen II, the make-believe Northuldra tribe you see in the Enchanted Forest are based on the Sámi people – the famous reindeer herders of northern Norway. The Sámi really do use reindeer to pull sleighs through the snow, just like Sven does in the movie (and Santa does on Christmas Eve)!

10) 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!

What did you think of our reindeer facts? Let us know by leaving a comment, below!

Words by Josephine Price at National Geographic Traveller. Image of two reindeer in snow ⓒ Getty (606354285). All other images ⓒ Josephine Price at National Geographic Traveller.
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