A guide to Reindeer

Sun 19th May

What is a reindeer?

Reindeer are a species of deer native to the Arctic, subarctic and mountainous regions of Europe, North American and Siberia.


What do reindeer look like?

A reindeer’s appearance can vary depending on where in the world they live. Populations in colder regions are lighter in colour, Asian and European populations are greyer and American reindeer are brown with dark legs. Both male and female reindeer have large sets of antlers which can grow up to 1.2m in length and are have a shape similar to paddles. Their hooves are broad and flat to help them travel through harsh conditions.

Males are typically larger than females and can reach lengths of between 1.2m – 2.2m in length, weigh between 120 – 300kg and reach shoulder heights of up to 1.4m.


Where do reindeers live?

Reindeer are most commonly found in Asia, North American and northern regions of Europe. They can be found in: Canada, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and Alaska.


What is a group of reindeer called?

A group of reindeer is called a herd.


How many reindeer are left in the world?

Unfortunately, reindeer are classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on IUCN’s list of endangered species. Populations have seen a 40% decline over recent decades. It’s estimated that North American populations are around 3.5 million, with another 3 million domestic reindeer in Northern Europe and 1 million wild reindeer in Eurasia.


How do reindeer survive in the cold?

The lightwear fur of the reindeer traps heat and helps them to stay warm in colder temperatures. There are two layers of fur: a shaggy outer layer and a find dense underfur. The fur is similar to that of a polar bear in that the outer hairs are hollow and act as an insulator.

A reindeer’s nose has an internal heat-exchange system which means that their breath is warmed as it reached the lungs and cooled as it is exhaled. On top of this, they have large feet with two toes and  two large claws. These spread to evenly distribute their body weight and effectively grip the ground.


What do reindeer eat?

Reindeer are herbivores which means that they feed exclusively on plants.During the summer they will feed mostly on grasses and during the winter they rely on fungi and lichen. They will also eat leaves, sedges and mosses as part of their diet. An adult reindeer will eat between 4 – 8 kg of vegetation per day on average.


What do reindeer drink?

Reindeer drink water. Due to where they live and their environment this water is generally found from naturally occurring sources such as streams and rivers.


What are baby reindeers called?

A baby reindeer is called a calf.


Why do male reindeer lose their antlers?

Male antlers shed in the winter months as fewer daylight hours means they receive less hormone stimulation. This, in turn, means that the connection between the pedicel (the small bone growth on the reindeer’s head) and the antler is weakened and eventually breaks.


What noise does a reindeer make?

Reindeer communicate with each other, and within the herd, using a combination of grunts, snorts and hoarse calls. Calves may communicate using a bleating sound.

In certain subspecies of reindeer e a clicking sound can be made from the knees. This noise allows them to find each other when visibility is low.


What is a reindeers natural habitat?

Although reindeer can be found in a variety of locations across the planet, they are often found in one of two primary types of habitats. Some populations live in and around forests, more often than not these are boreal forests, while others inhabit the tundra, which is a flat, vast, treeless Acrtic region of Asia, North America and Europe.


Do reindeer have any predators?

Reindeer have a number of predators in the wild including wolves and bears. Golden eagles have also been known to grab baby reindeer. Humans, of course, have also hunted reindeer over the course of history.




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