We are always asked great questions when on location, so we will try to answer some of them here in our FAQs for the curious minded.
Yes! There are some major differences between the two. Reindeer are domesticated, they group when herded, they have shorter legs, a round body, their calves are born in April and they have a denser fur. Caribou are wild, spread out when herded, have longer legs, a lean body, their calves are born in late May and their fur is not as dense. Plus, there is a DNA difference between the two of them. Check out: http://news.uaf.edu/news/featured/04/reindeer/difference.html
Records show that China had numerous domestic Reindeer around the fifth century. Also, Norway had domestic Reindeer around 871-899 A.D. Reindeer have been domesticated for a very long time!
The species Rangifer tarandus or more simply-Reindeer, are found in a number of northern areas including the Alaskan tundra, Russia and Scandinavia. In the wild in North America, they are known as Caribou. Reindeer have a lighter fur and slight facial difference from Caribou. Our Reindeer were originally purchased from the state of Oregon, and we now have a herd of around 45. They live close to Spokane, Washington. More facts can be found at: http://reindeer.salrm.uaf.edu/about_reindeer/ from the University of Alaska. Interesting fact: Reindeer are classified “LC” or “least concern” on the endangered species list.
Reindeer are from cold climates, so they love the colder weather. During the summer, you will find them splashing in their water troughs, to stay cool. It makes quite a mess, but they seem to enjoy it. They put their feet in, and splash up a storm!
In the Reindeer family, both male and female produce antlers. The males antlers fall off in the winter around the beginning of December. The females lose their antlers around the end of January thru March. It only takes a short time for them to grow those massive racks! Even the babies start growing antlers right away!
We like to think we are Santa’s training camp. The Reindeer hang out munching grass and hay all summer, and in the fall, we start gearing up for Christmas. We go for long walks, learn to wear a halter, and get acquainted with people.
Reindeer have a very delicate digestive system. It is very easy for them to get sick if they eat something that doesn’t agree with them. They eat alfalfa hay, Reindeer feed, apples as a treat and they LOVE raisins!! So on Christmas Eve, when you leave cookies for Santa, don’t forget a small dish of raisins for the Reindeer.
Santa is the only one with the magic dust to do that. We are just the training camp, so the Reindeer are in great shape for that long night of flying on Christmas Eve.
The caribou of North America can run at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour!