Surely you have heard about Rudolph before. The famous Christmas song from 1939 is about the reindeer with the bright red nose: "Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer". Reindeer do not have shiny noses. But they have many other great features and abilities.
Reindeer belong to the deer family. They live in the far north of the earth: in Scandinavia, Siberia, Mongolia, Alaska and Canada. In Canada and Alaska they are called caribou. They live together in large groups with up to 100 000 animals. There is even a herd with 500 000 reindeer!
In Lapland, reindeer have been kept as pets and livestock for a very long time. Lapland is a region that spans Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. There live the Sami, that’s how the native people are called. Many of them breed reindeer. They use meat and milk for food and the warm fur for clothing. Seeds move around with the animals so that they can find food. But the natural habitat of reindeer is often cut by roads. And so you can see traffic signs in the region showing a reindeer in a red triangle. The seeds have another way of warning motorists: they hang bags on street signs or branches. Then car drivers know: Here are reindeer in the vicinity. Drive carefully!
Females also have antlers. Men’s is bigger though. (Photo: dpa)
Reindeer look very similar to our deer, often they are a bit lighter in color. Your coat can be white, gray, brown or black. When fully grown, they grow to between 90 centimeters and 1.40 meters tall and weigh up to 300 kilograms. The females are usually much smaller and lighter than the males. The special thing about reindeer is that the females also wear antlers. This is not the case with any other type of deer. However, the antlers of females are much smaller.
Male reindeer have a throat sac on their neck that functions like a sound amplifier: During the mating season in October, males make sounds to attract the attention of females. And the throat bag makes the shouts even louder.
Reindeer have to cope with bitterly cold and dark winter months. For months, they live in quite darkness with temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius! Their special fur ensures that the animals are well warmed, but almost nothing of this warmth penetrates to the outside. Their hooves also adapt: They become quite hard in winter and form an edge at the front. With this, the animals can scrape away snow. Even the darkness causes them no problems thanks to a trick: Reindeer change their eye color in winter: In winter they are blue. This makes it easier for them to catch any ray of light, no matter how faint. In the winter months they find less food. This is why they often travel long distances, sometimes several hundred kilometers, in search of grasses, moss, mushrooms and leaves. Reindeer are also racing animals. They reach speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour. And reindeer can pull heavy loads: So pulling Santa Claus on a sleigh with a mountain of presents would be no problem at all for them!