The reindeer, is the only deer species in which both males and females possess antlers. Herds are organized into hierarchies based on the size of the deers’ bodies and antlers. Most herds make seasonal migrations, moving to where food is available. Herds of reindeer may undertake seasonal migrations in the far north in search of food, heading to the Arctic plains when the snow there thaws in the summer. Northern populations often travel more than 5,000 km (3,000 miles). During the migration, reindeer groups congregate into great herds of up to half a million individuals. Up to 200,000 individuals have been recorded in a single herd, but typically numbers are less than 10,000. The young are born in the summer and they can run almost at once, to escape predators such as polar bears and wolves. They lack the white spotting associated with other young deer.
The antlers of males can exceed 1m (3.25 ft). Reindeer hooves are broad and flat – an adaptation for walking on soft ground and deep snow.
Reindeer hooves alter according to the season to help the animals walk easily and safely.
Reindeer have been domesticated for 3,000 years, and there are huge numbers in northern Siberia.
Distribution: Greenland, Scandinavia, Siberia, Mongolia, north-eastern China, Alaska, Canada, and northern USA.
Habitat: Arctic tundra, boreal forests and mountainous habitats.
Food: Herbivorous, Plant material (especially new growth in spring), lichens, leaves, twigs, shrubs and similar food.
Weight: Females 40 – 100 kg (88 – 220 lb); males 70-150 kg (154 – 330 lb)
Length: 195 – 235 cm (77 – 93 in), including tail; up to 120 cm (47 in) tall
Tail: 4 3/4 in (10-21 cm)
Maturity: 1.5-3.5 years.
Breeding: 1 fawn produced annually.
Gestation Period: About 227 days; weaning occurs 4-5 months later
Life span: Typically about 5 years, but can be up to 15.
The appearance of reindeer differs according to the time of year. They are brownish in summer, and become greyer in winter. Domestic reindeer show far more variance in colouration than their wild relatives.
The male has two inflatable sacs that amplify the sound of his roaring during the breeding period.
The coat is thick and is very effective in trapping air close to the skin, helping to insulate the reindeer.
The sense of smell is vital to the reindeer’s survival, helping it locate food buried beneath the snow.