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Reindeer Facts

Size Up to 3.6 ft (110 cm) (shoulder height)
Speed Up to 50 mph (80 km/h)
Weight Up to 661 lb (300 kg)
Lifespan 12-15 years
Food Moss, lichen, grasses
Predators Bears, wolves
Habitat Northern Europe, Northern Asia, North America, Greenland
Order Even-toed ungulates
Family Deer
Scientific name Rangifer tarandus
Characteristics Males and females both grow antlers

Main Characteristics

Reindeer belong to the deer family and live as gregarious animals in the colder regions of North America, Northern Europe and North Asia. In summer they live in the tundra, a barren landscape without trees and in winter they live in coniferous forests, the so-called taiga.

The best known reindeer (fictional of course) is Rudolph with the red nose (more on that below). The reindeer is the only deer species in which both male and female animals wear antlers.

Reindeer Photo: NancyS/Shutterstock


Anatomy and Appearance

Reindeer Have Hooves That Work Like "Snow Shoes"

Reindeer live in the high north and therefore walk about in snowy regions all the time. In order not to get stuck in the snow, it has special hoofs, which are very wide and very elastic, so that they even become a little bit wider when touching the ground.

They work like snow shoes: The weight is evenly distributed on a larger surface area, so that the snow does only yield a little bit under the pressure and the reindeer does not sink in. On normal surfaces you can hear the reindeer’s hoofs creak when they touch the ground.

Reindeer Photo: Steve Allen/Shutterstock


How Do Reindeer Survive the Cold?

Reindeer feed on moss and this contains a certain chemical substance, which protects the reindeer’s blood from freezing when they track through the icy Arctic Zone. For the reindeer, the moss is like the frost protection in the windscreen washer system of a car.

Reindeer Are Gregarious Animals

Who does not like to eat pizza or fries with a friend? Reindeer are no different from us. They gather in large herds to look for food. If they came and visited a pizza stall, the pizza baker would probably be flabbergasted. There would be a queue of about 1,000 to 10,000 reindeer waiting at his door.


Reindeer Photo: Gertjan Hooijer/Shutterstock


Reindeer mate between September and November. The calves are born in the following May or June. After about 45 days, the calves already eat grass. Yet they still suckle until autumn.

Reindeer Photo: Christopher Kolaczan/Shutterstock

Fun Facts

Rudolph With the Red Nose

Every year at Christmas time you can hear Rudolph on the radio: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny noooose ...” This is a song about a little unhappy reindeer, which is laughed at by its reindeer friends because of its rather red and shiny nose. Yet, Santa Claus finds Rudolph’s nose rather cool because it glows. After all, nobody wants to drive the sledge into the roadside ditch in the dark!

The Reindeer Is Related To:

Animals in the Same Biome:

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