Why Santa's Reindeer Are Female

Hint: It's All in the Antlers

December 21, 2020
Reindeer Antlers

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


The 2006 Old Farmer's Almanac


Reader Comments

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It isn't antlers that make a

It isn't antlers that make a reindeer or any other animal great, it's heart. Santa picks the best of the best for that special flight, and if Rudolph and all her teammates happened to be female, hey, even better. Most of my best lead dogs were female. They were focused, fiercely competitive and famously smart. None of them had a nose that glowed red in the dark, however, and for that I'm grateful.


Obviously this story is a joke. We all know that Santa's Reindeer "CANNOT" be females. They could never travel past all of the stores in the world without stopping to look in every window. They could not pass any gas station without stopping to ask for directions nor could they travel that far without getting lost year after year. Only Male Reindeer would or could pass all of those stores & keep going no matter whether they were lost or not without asking directions in an attempt to get home before halftime was over during the game.

Happy Chanukah & Merry Christmas (one without the other is simply incomplete).



How clever! Love this article. Honestly, as a kid when "Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer" was written (and not "the most popular kid on the block"), I never liked the concept of the song, because it shows how a once laughed-at reindeer becomes the other reindeers' best friend when Santa shows favoritism toward Rudolph. So much like human female behavior, they most likely ARE females.

Santa's reindeer

Santa's reindeer are a unique species in several ways,not the least of which is their ability to fly...and as science knows,the males of the flying variety maintain their antlers well past Christmas,...they are important steering mechanisms when traveling at the high speeds necessary for global circumnavigation...I thought everyone knew this,after all, it's settled science..

Rudolph is a Girl

Had heard this when we were in Alaska. No one believed me....will share with others.

Santa’s reindeer are females

Of course Santa’s deer are females. Who else but females could haul an old fat guy in a red flannel suit all around the world in one night without stopping to ask for directions!!

who else...

The Editors's picture

Thanks for this pleasant degree of humor …

Thanks for your entire information in all your different format!

I just love all the topics you cover in all the various formats you provide for all of us! You are a blessing for
all Americans. Your attention to detail is greatly appreciated. Thank you Old Farmers Almanac!!
Merry Christmas and continued success in the future!

And thanks back—

The Editors's picture

Thank YOU for your kind words, Beverly, and best wishes for you and yours!


According to Norwegian reindeer farmers, castrated males also retain their antlers into winter.

reindeer farmers

The Editors's picture

Well, put this in the category of news to us! We can only wonder if those farmers subscribe the idea that there is a “Best Day” to do this and other things: https://www.almanac.com/bestdays/timetable


“All of the other reindeer, use to laugh and call HIM names”.
Rudolph is male.

My thought exactly. You even

My thought exactly. You even used the same lyrics I was going to use.

Magic Reindeer

It was always my understanding that Santa only employes magical reindeer, who also has other special attributes: flying, landing on rooftops, remembering which chimney was last and which was the next one, moving at ultra high speeds... So, males also were able to keep their antlers permanently. So there!

Good one!

Thanks for keeping Rudolph & Co as we know and love him!


This assumes that "artist's conception" illustrations we've seen are an accurate representation of the genuine article. So far as I am aware, there is as yet no clear photographic evidence available for examination.


Then if Rudolph is female what about Clarice??

Rudolf and Clarice...

With all the gender equality now, I'll say Clarice is is trans. Go Clarice...