The reindeer (known as caribou in North America) is a deer from the Arctic and Subarctic. It is unique in that both its genders grow antlers. The hunting of wild reindeer and herding of semi-domesticated reindeer (for meat, hides, antlers, milk and transportation) are significant to several Arctic and Subarctic peoples.
Originally, the reindeer was found in Scandinavia, eastern Europe, Russia, Mongolia, and northern China north of the 50th latitude. In North America, it was found in Canada, Alaska, and the northern conterminous USA from Washington to Maine. In the 19th century, it was apparently still present in southern Idaho. It also occurred naturally on Sakhalin, Greenland, and probably even in historical times in Ireland.
Today, wild reindeer have disappeared from many areas within this large range, especially from the southernmost locations. Large populations of wild reindeer are still found in Scandinavia, Siberia, Greenland, Alaska, and Canada.
Typical shoulder height is from 85-150cm (33-59in).
Reindeer have specialized noses that dramatically increase the surface area within the nostrils. Incoming cold air is warmed by the animal’s body heat before entering the lungs, and water is condensed from the expired air and captured before the deer’s breath is exhaled, used to moisten dry incoming air and possibly absorbed into the blood through membranes.
Reindeer hooves adapt to the season: in the summer, when the tundra is soft and wet, the footpads become sponge-like and provide extra traction. In the winter, the pads shrink and tighten, exposing the rim of the hoof, which cuts into the ice and crusted snow to keep it from slipping. This also enables them to dig down (known as “cratering”) through the snow to their favourite food, a lichen known as reindeer moss. The knees of many species of reindeer are adapted to produce a clicking sound as they walk.
- The Reindeer on Wikipedia
- Caribou on National Geographic
- Reindeer on the BBC
- The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd (Britain’s only reindeer herd)