Category: Wildlife

The largest deer in the Arctic areas of the world, reindeer feature massive, eye-catching antlers. They are the only kind of deer in which both the male and female animals grow antlers.



Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Mammalia

Order - Artiodactyla

Family - Cervidae

Subfamily - Capreolinae

Genus - Rangifer

Species - R. tarandus.

Common Names - Most people don't realize that reindeer and caribou are the same animals. However, many people refer to the North American animals as "Caribou" and the European animals as "Reindeer".


European reindeer are smaller than North American caribou. Male reindeer weigh around 300 pounds and females weigh about 200 pounds.Their height can range between 3 to 3.5 feet at the shoulder. North American reindeer weigh about 400 pounds and are usually around 55 inches tall at the shoulder. Reindeer usually have dark-colored legs, but their bodies can be brown, beige, tan, dark gray or even white. Both male and female reindeer have large antlers, and they have large, circular feet.


The rut, or mating season, occurs in the fall, around October. Males' bodies prepare for this time, with massive muscle development and extreme antler growth. The male reindeer will fight with his antlers, sometimes to the death, for the privilege of mating with the five to 15 females in a harem. After mating, females will be pregnant for about 228 days. The females all give birth within a 10-day window. They will usually only have one calf, although twins are not unusual. The calf will nurse from its mother for about six months before weaning.


Reindeer are herd animals, and they spend much of their time in large groups of other reindeer. In the spring, each smaller herd of up to a few hundred reindeer will join with other herds to make a massive superherd of 50,000 to 500,000 reindeer. In spring and fall, these massive herds will migrate up to 3,000 miles to find food sources. Reindeer are wonderful swimmers and will cross deep rivers and lakes in their migrations. In the winter, reindeer can smell food underneath the snow and will paw the snow away from the ground to find vegetation to eat.


Over 3,000 years ago, the Arctic people first domesticated the reindeer. They used the reindeer for meat, milk and hides and as draft animals. The Lapp people of Northern Eurasia still use the reindeer as a basis of their agricultural system. Reindeer are the only species of deer that are widely domesticated.

Present Status

While there are still many reindeer in the wild, biologists are concerned because their numbers are plummeting. Much of the problem for reindeer is global climate change, which makes the world too warm for them, as well as industrialization, which develops land that the reindeer have historically lived upon.