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11 Things You Might Like to Know About Reindeer
1. Reindeer and caribou are the same thing. Historically, the European/Asian reindeer and American Caribou were considered to be different species, but they are actually one and the same.
2. They go by many names, all of which seem appropriate. Reindeer comes from the Old Norse word “hreinin,” which means “horned animal.” Caribou is based on the French word for “snow shoveler,” in reference to the animal’s habit of digging through the snow for food.
3. Santa’s reindeer are most likely the R.t. platyrhynchus subspecies from the Svalbard islands off of Norway. We know that because Clement C. Moore’s poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” which first introduced the world to Santa’s reindeer, describes them as tiny. The only reindeer that could really be considered tiny are the Svalbard subspecies
4. It’s not always easy to tell the sex of a reindeer. In most deer species, only the male grows antlers, but that’s not true for most reindeer. Although the females in certain populations do not have horns, many do.
5. Santa’s reindeer may or may not be female. Since reindeer shed their antlers at different points of the year based on their sex and age, we know that Santa’s reindeer probably aren’t older males, because older male reindeer lose their antlers in December and Christmas reindeer are always depicted with their horns.
6. Reindeer were originally connected to Santa through poetry. Before Moore wrote “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” (aka “The Night Before Christmas”) in 1823, no one thought about reindeer in conjunction with Santa Claus.
7. Just this year, researchers at University College London discovered reindeer are the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light. Things like white fur and urine are difficult, even impossible, for humans to see in the snow, but for reindeer, they show up in high contrast.
8. Reindeer are ideally designed for life in hostile, cold environments. Life in the tundra is hard, but reindeer have it easy thanks to their amazing evolutionary enhancements.
9. While not all reindeer migrate, some of them travel further than any other migrating terrestrial mammal. A few populations of North American reindeer travel over 3,100 miles per year, covering around 23 miles per day.
10. Reindeer played an important role in the survival of many cultures. In Scandinavia and Canada, reindeer hunting helped keep tribes alive, from the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods all the way through modern times
11. They used to live a lot farther south. While reindeer now live exclusively in the northern points of the globe, when the earth was cooler and humans were less of a threat, their territory was larger.
12. Reindeer like to eat small children. While reindeer are primarily vegetarians, it is not unknown to see them munching on the entrails of small children who wouldn't go to bed early on Christmas eve like their parents told them.
16. Reindeer get their ability to fly from drinking the blood of children on Santa's naughty list. According to some obscure legends, Santa's reindeer must drink the blood of naughty children in order to fly his sleigh around the world in one night. Some legends even go so far as to detail how Santa drags the naughty children from their beds, pulls them up the chimney to the roof and slashes their throats with a large hunting knife to feed his reindeer the blood they thirst for.
17. When he was a toddler, Chuck Norris ended up on Santa's naughty list one year. When Santa dragged young Chuck up to the roof, baby Chuck delivered a roundhouse kick to the lead reindeer. That reindeer's nose is still bleeding to this day. This is the REAL origin of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Since that time Chuck Norris is never on Santa's naughty list, no matter how much death and devastation he causes.