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The Rundown on Reindeer

December 24, 2014

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Reindeer love cold places. (You probably won’t see any reindeer roaming around your neighborhood unless you live near the Arctic.) Everything about reindeer, from their sense of smell to the shape of their hooves, helps them to survive and be comfortable in snow and frigid temperatures.

The Rundown on Reindeer

• 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, this will be 20 to 50 inches tall. Antlers begin to appear on female reindeer a few weeks after the males’ start and can grow from 9 to 20 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.

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

• The reindeer’s double coat of fur does not extend to its legs. In cold weather, reindeer constrict, or tighten, their blood vessels, causing less blood to flow and essentially turning down the temperature in their legs. This helps to keep their body heat steady.

• 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 for food in deep snow.

• Reindeer have two layers of thick, furry, brownish-gray hair. The layer closest to their skin is dense, wooly, 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.

For more exciting facts about reindeer check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids!

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