Did you know that reindeer and caribou are the only deer where both the male and female have antlers? Antlers grow each year from bony stubs on deer heads and are made of bone but covered by a furry skin called “velvet.” This skin is heavily concentrated in blood vessels that provide oxygen to the growing antler, and antlers can grow up to 1 inch (2.54 centimers)…per day!
Reindeer are considered to be the “domesticated cousins” of wild caribou and males shed their antlers before the beginning of winter, as mating season has already passed and they have no need for such heavy ornaments anymore. Thus, when Christmas rolls around, it is the female reindeer who have antlers – not males. As females give birth in the spring, it is important for them to be able to survive the harsh winter of the North. Expectant mothers retain their antlers in order to protect food resources. So, when you hear “now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen” and onwards….Santa’s sleigh is being pulled by an all-female team.
Pictured here is a reindeer from Svalbard in the late fall. In the northern hemisphere, Arctic animals include reindeer and polar bears, while the southern hemisphere, in Antarctica, is where penguins call home – there are no reindeer or bears down there.