RUDOLPH OR REAL?

RUDOLPH OR REAL?

By: Dorian Hawkins

Reindeer have become very famous during the wintertime. From the story “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, they pull Santa Claus’ sled, however, the truth of reindeers is just as interesting. Reindeer are only called reindeer in Eurasia, but here in America, we call them caribou. Caribou are in the same genus, and even the same species. Reindeer have a very special characteristic. They’re famous antlers! In comparison to their bodies, they have the biggest antlers of all the deer species. Male antlers can grow up to 51 inches. That’s 4.25 feet! Males begin to grow their antlers in February, and females grow theirs in May.  They both finish growing their antlers at the same time, though, they shed them at different times. The males shed them in November, but almost as soon as the females shed their antlers they begin to grow once again, in May when the calves are born. This fact means that for Rudolf to have his antlers on Christmas, he must have been a female.

Reindeer were first domesticated over 3000 years ago by the Arctic people. They are, to this day, the only deer to be domesticated on such a large scale. They are used to pull sleds and supplies up hills and mountains in the arctic regions.

Reindeer are made for the cold; they have two layers of fur, an undercoat of fine, soft wool and a top layer of long, hollow guard hairs. Air gets trapped in these hairs and holds the body heat in the body. They also have hooves for gripping on the snow or ice. These are all ways that over time the reindeer species has adapted to the cold and harsh climate of the arctic. Despite the fact that real reindeer are not the magical creatures that you hear about, they are wonders of evolution in how they have been so well equipped to handle their environment.