The Rundown on Reindeer

December 6, 2013

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There may not be one with a red glowing nose, but in the arctic, Rudolph’s friends are all around! The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids, Volume 5, shares some interesting facts about a favorite holiday season animal.

The Rundown on Reindeer

• Reindeer have a superb sense of smell. It helps them to locate food buried deep under snow, alerts them to the presence of predators, and aids in navigation.

• In bitterly cold weather, the footpads on a reindeer’s hooves shrink and tighten, exposing the rims of its hooves. This helps the reindeer both to pierce through snow as it walks and to dig food in deep snow.

• A female reindeer is a cow.

• A male reindeer is a bull.

• A baby reindeer is a calf.

• A group of reindeer is a herd.

• Reindeer and caribou are cousins.

• Reindeer have two layers of thick, furry, brownish-gray hair. The layer closest to their skin is dense, woolly, and soft. On top are long, hollow “guard hairs.” Air gets trapped inside these hairs and holds in body heat to keep the reindeer warm. These hairs also help reindeer to float. They are excellent swimmers.

• Reindeer are the only species of deer that can be domesticated. For more than 2,000 years, they have been used to carry and pull loads.

• Both male and female reindeer have antlers. (In other deer species, only males have antlers.) In early spring, male reindeer begin to grow antlers. At full size, these will be 20 to 50 inches tall. All new antlers are covered with protective soft fur, called “velvet.” Reindeer shed their antlers annually and grow a new, larger set every year.

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