Friday, December 23, 2011

Reindeer & Caribou

Reindeer, known as caribou in the United States and Canada, are a type of deer indigenous to the northern regions of North America, Greenland, Asia and Europe, and are a well-known component of the story of Santa Claus. There are 9 subspecies of caribou, most of which represent the only types of deer in which both sexes grow antlers. 
The size of caribou depends largely on sex and subspecies. Female reindeer usually weigh between 170-260lbs, with males ranging from 200-700lbs; both sexes are between 33 and 59 inches tall at the shoulders. Compared to their body size, caribou have extremely large antlers. Males can possess racks up to 39 inches in width and 53 inches in beam length. The only deer with larger antlers is the moose. All species of caribou have insulated double-layer coats and are well suited to brutally cold life on the tundra.

Caribou are migratory animals, and venture farther each year than any other terrestrial mammal; sometimes over 3000 miles in a year. The herds during these migrations can contain up to 500,000 animals. Reindeer are very capable at covering ground, with an average traveling distance of 12-34 miles per day. They are excellent sprinters as well, and can run at speeds up to 50mph. Water is frequently and easily traversed on migration routes, as reindeer can swim at speeds in excess of 6mph.
Caribou and reindeer are ruminants, and eat primarily tundra grass in the summer. In the winter, lichen is their main food source, but they have also been known to consume leaves, seeds, eggs, and small rodents.

Reindeer have been hunted by native peoples since nearly the beginning of human history. Their meat and fur is a staple in northern tribal life, where most species are still actively hunted. Though never fully domesticated like horses or working dogs, reindeer have been used throughout history as draught animals to pull sleds. However, the vast majority keep their hooves on the ground!

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