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January 22, 2022 3 min read


Rangifer tarandus, commonly caribou reindeer or simply reindeer, belongs to mammals and is a member of the family Cervidae

General Characteristics:

Body Color:

Reindeer body is black to white, but the color may vary from season to season and even in subspecies. The color of the body is brown in summers. The southern populations are darker, while the north side populations are white.

The reindeer coat has two layers: the hollow hair overcoat, and beneath this is an undercoat composed of dense, long hair.

Body Weight and Body Size:

Male reindeer are larger and bulkier than females, the average body weight is about 250 kg, and the reindeer may have a height of 5 feet.

Svalbard reindeer is the smallest in size, and its size is only 80 cm.


Both male and female reindeer have antlers, antlers grow, and this growth process is called antlerogenesis; females grow their antlers in May while male grow their antlers in March.

It is a dark brown vascularized skin; velvet grows over the antlers, and once the antler is fully hardened, it is shed off.


Reindeer have crescent-shaped cloven hooves, which not only carry most of their body weight but also help them to walk in snow.

Habitat and Range of Reindeer:

Reindeer are present in arctic and subarctic regions and are distributed across Russia, Greenland, Europe, Northern China, Mongolia, Canada, Scandinavia, Alaska, and Northern America.

Diet of Reindeer:

Reindeer separated during winter and concentrated during the spring for the migration. Their food varies from season to season. Reindeer are ruminates and have a four-chambered stomach.

In winters, reindeers take highly carbohydrate food, as their metabolism slows down, and they feed on reindeer moose (lichens). They recycle their urea, which helps them survive despite low protein food. They eat grass, shrubs, birch, mushrooms, larch, willow, and sedges in the summer.

Reindeer are osteophagous, as they consume the shed antlers when food is less.

Varieties of Reindeer:

Reindeer has two varieties or ecotypes, and these are,

  • Forest Reindeer/Woodland Reindeer
  • Tundra Reindeer/ Arctic Reindeer

Primary Difference between Reindeer and Caribou:

Most people assume that reindeer and caribou are the same animals, but there are some differences between the two which are listed below,

  • Reindeers are present in Canada, Siberia, northern Europe, Asia, Alaska, Scandinavia, and Greenland, while caribous are native to North America.
  • Caribou are taller and slender, while reindeer are stockier.
  • In general, people consider reindeer as domestic animals; however, there are also wild species of reindeer. Caribou are considered to be the migratory wild mammal.

Some Facts about Reindeer:

  • They have tendons on the foot that slide over the foot bones and produce a loud sound.
  • The nose of a reindeer is a network of blood vessels, and the air exhaled from the nose is cooled before leaving, and the blood vessels also help to warm the air when they inhale before the air enters the lungs.

  • Reindeer eyes are adapted to see in different light conditions, and reindeer are among those animals which can see ultraviolet light.
  • Reindeer change their eye color according to the season. In winter, it is blue, and in summer, it is golden.

  • Reindeer can also swim.

  • Reindeer hooves also adapt according to season; in winter, they become stiff to provide extra adhesion and prevent them from sleeping. In summer, the hooves become sponge-like and provide extra grip because the tundra is wet.

Hunting Reindeer:

Reindeer hunting season is from May to December, with September and October being most important. Most hunters focus on hunting reindeer immediately after the rut as in this period antlers are in prime shape, and after this, reindeer shed the antlers.

Hunting arctic reindeer one of the basic methods is stalking, ambushing, and attacking. Stalking may be a bit adventurous as it may make reindeer conscious; ambushing in herds is fruitful when reindeer are migrating.

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