Christmas falls in late December and reindeer lead Santa’s sleigh, as the story goes. In the wild, of course, the only reindeer left with antlers at Christmas are the females! Enjoy this humorous post about Santa’s reindeer.
Note: This article is a nature article with a pleasant degree of humor. It was originally written many years ago and not mean to reflect and comment on the politics of the day.
Are Santa’s Reindeer Female?
Reindeer and caribou are the only deer where both males and females have antlers. For all other members of the deer family, Cervidae, only the males have antlers. (Reindeer are the domesticated cousins of wild caribou—and are usually about 8 to 10 inches shorter.)
Most male reindeer (bulls) shed their fuzzy antlers before at the beginning of winter (late November to mid-December). This is because the mating season occurs in the fall. Once the male reindeer have used their antlers to impress their mates, they no longer have use of them, and they shed them before Christmastime.
However, the females retain their antlers until after they give birth to calves in the spring. This allows the expectant mothers to protect food resources through harsh weather.
Photo: Reindeer named “Misfit” with the Reindeer Farm in Indianapolis, Indiana.
It’s possible that Santa’s sleigh helpers are casterated males called steers which don’t lose antlers until February or March. Sledders use steers because the bulls are too tired from rutting all the females and too lean to pull a sled through heavy snow. Also, what kind of sledder would hook up pregant females to a sled? Not exactly good animal husbandry.
But the prevailing theory is that Santa has an all-girl team, complete with the shiny red-nosed Rudolph. Yep, Santa’s reindeer just might be female and don’t mind stopping for directions.
All joking aside, we thought this was a fun bit of wildlife trivia.
Are you excited for Christmas this year? See our everything-Christmas page!