Reindeer are REAL?
Yes, they are real. In scientific terms: Reindeer belong to the family Cervidae, genus Rangifer, and species tarandus. Reindeer are among the earliest domesticated animals. There is mention of large farm-based herds of them as far back as the 9th century in Norway. Farm raised reindeer are friendly and easy to train. Some people think that reindeer and caribou are exactly the same thing. However, most scientists refer to domesticated reindeer as Rangifer tarandus and the wild version (caribou) as Rangifer arcticus. Farm raised reindeer (like the ones Santa uses) are slightly shorter than their caribou cousins by 8-10 inches.
How can you tell the boys from the girls?
Did you know that ALL reindeer have large antlers? This makes telling boys and girls apart a bit more difficult than with other animals. Boys tend to be slightly larger than the girls and their "racks" (antlers) are often much bigger. Both boys and girls stand 3-4 feet tall and can weigh up to 500 lbs. The girls are generally a bit smaller weighing less than 350 lbs.
How long do they live?
In the wild herds, males may only live 2-3 years. In manged herds and farms males can live to be 13-15. Females live longer both in the wild and on farms. The oldest reindeer have been known to live into their late 20's and were female. The mortality rate on babies is very high with approximately 50% of babies living to adulthood.
What’s that fuzzy stuff on their antlers?
Each year reindeer grow new antlers. Even the babies grow antlers within just a few months of birth. During the growth period, the antlers are soft and rubbery with blood and marrow flowing under a layer of soft furry skin. This is called VELVET. Their antlers are tender during this stage and they don’t like to have them touched. By the end of August, the antler bone hardens and the reindeer begin to rub them on anything they can find in order to remove the velvet layer. Males carry their antlers until December or January and the females keep them until as late as March when they are ready to have their babies. The females keep their antlers longer so that they can become the most dominant reindeer during winter in order to always have food for the baby they may be growing inside. Once the antlers fall off, the whole process starts again.
Why do they have long white tufts of fur on their front?
The tuft of white hair under the neck keeps water from touching their skin when drinking cold water during winter. Without this fur, the water would run down their chin to their chest and belly. It would freeze into ice, making them very cold and crusty.
What’s that CLICKING sound?
Reindeer have a tendon that rubs over a bone in the ankle, causing a clicking sound when they walk. This sound helps them keep track of each other during blizzards so they don’t get separated from their family. However, the clicking sound does not develop until the babies are close to one year old. This is nature’s way of protecting them since they are less likely to attract predators while they are small.
What makes reindeer HAPPY?
The colder the weather is, the happier reindeer will be! They get very frisky when it snows. They play and frolic constantly. They also love OATS, HAY and sometimes SWEETS. They have very thick fur coats made of hollow hairs for insulation. Their noses are also covered with fur and are very soft. They have wide hooves, which act like snowshoes in winter to keep them from sinking into the snow or mud. Reindeer have the ability to lower the temperature in their legs during the coldest times in the winter, which helps them prevent heat loss from their bodies. Reindeer don’t have any sweat glands so if they get too hot they open their mouths and breath rapidly. This is why reindeer don’t live in Florida! If reindeer live south of the tundra, they like to have a fan in the summer to keep off the flies and stay cooler. So the next time you hear someone complain when it gets cold, remember that reindeer are the HAPPIEST!
How long to reindeer carry their babies?
Reindeer gestation periods are approximately 226 days or roughly 7 months. Babies are born from spring to summer. Breeding occurs between August and October each year. Male reindeer can be very dangerous during this time and must be treated with extreme caution. Most bulls are removed from pen close to delivery time to give mothers some space. Babies can stay with moms or be bottle fed depending on the preference of the breeder. Most babies weigh between 6 and 26 pounds at birth with smaller weights be common in the warmer climates such as Illinois.
Are REINDEER difficult to keep?
Yes, reindeer are extremely difficult to take care of and keep healthy. They are very susceptible to parasites and because they are a "prey" animal (meaning that in the wild they are hunted and eaten by other animals such as polar bears, wolverines, coyotes), they are masterful at hiding symptoms of illness. Many times they are past the point of saving when they reveal a problem.
What do they eat?
Reindeer are very picky eaters. The slightest change can turn them off. In the arctic their main source of food is lichen. However, lichen is not native to the lower 48 states, so a carefully selected mix of grain is prepared to provide them with the ideal amount of protein, fiber and fat. Reindeer gain weight during the spring and summer then live off their fat reserves throughout the winter. During the fall when the bulls are in "rut" (hormone driven breeding season) they dramatically reduce their eating and can lose as much as 50 lbs in just a few months. They drop their antlers earlier than the females, leaving the males at a disadvantage to get food in the winter. This is one of the reasons males live much longer in managed herds or farms.
Reindeer have long been used as work animals because they are strong and very easy to get along with. Although most people think that only Santa's reindeer fly, most reindeer do exhibit flight-like behavior. They get so frisky in deep snow that they leap and jump high enough to appear to be flying. Adults can leap 3-4 feet off the ground and can run over 30 miles per hour. Babies are up and running within an hour of birth.
Reindeer training begins when they are babies so that they are used to being led by a harness and take directions from Santa in flight. Most babies are bottle fed so they get used to people and enjoy interacting with children. Most reindeer babies are born between April and May with a few being born during the summer. Reindeer are less active during summer and stressed in high heat situations so most training occurs in the fall and winter.
Snowman's Reindeer Educational Resource
Snowman's Reindeer Farm in Canton, IL
Sven was our oldest and largest reindeer on the farm weighing in at approx. 400 lbs. Even though he was the "alpha" of the herd, he was also the most shy. He loved treats and people. He was slow and gentle in his movements. He passed away suddenly in the middle of the holiday season 2018 and no obvious cause of death was found. Bulls generally don't live as long as females, but it broke our hearts to lose this sweet, gentle giant. We miss our Svenie.
Sugar Plum is the FIRST reindeer born at Snowman's Reindeer Farm. Owner, Scott Snowman, actually caught her when she was born right in the barn. She has been partially raised in the house due to mama, Mistletoe, not having any milk. Sugar Plum had a number of health issues and without round the clock care from her owners and vet, she wouldn't be here today. As a result she is quite special and spoiled. Farmer Scott has a real "sweet spot" for Miss Sugar Plum who LOVES to be kissed and petted. She is a beautiful, sweet addition to our already magical group of reindeer. She has adjusted beautifully to her new best friend, Kringle.
Little Missy (Mistletoe) is quite the escape artist! She can get out of almost any gate or pen if given the chance. We have to double lock everything because of her. She will follow you right into the house! It appears that Mistletoe thinks she is a HUMAN. She likes people better than the other reindeer and can have a bit of an attitude. She broke off one of Kringle's antlers in the fall of 2017 because she got mad about him getting into her pen! Her mate is Snowball and she is mother to Sugar Plum and Griswold. She is very petite and ladylike in her movements. She is very gentle with children and is the favorite reindeer for many visitors.
Klaus, Nutmeg and their unborn baby girl, who we named Snowflake, passed away in March of 2017 due to an outbreak of Babesia on our farm. (Babesia is a malaria-like parasite, also called a “piroplasm,” that infects red blood cells.The disease is carried by ticks.) Despite our efforts to save them at the University of Illinois Large Animal Hospital, we were unable to do so and our hearts were truly broken at the loss. We loved them as much as any family member and Snowman's Reindeer Farm will always be dedicated to these precious reindeer who changed our lives forever. We imagine them with Santa at the North Pole, watching over all the new babies and helping out until we get there someday.
Snowball is Klaus' little brother and they are so much alike it is hilarious! Snowball is the most affectionate of our male reindeer. He loves being touched and talked to. He is naturally curious and constantly getting into things. He is always there to "help" when you are trying to get things done! Snowball also loves to give people kisses if they get close enough. Snowball is currently the breeding bull in our herd and is father to Sugar Plum (2018) and Griswold (2019) During breeding season he becomes very protective of Mistletoe and will sometimes grunt at you if you get too close. He adores her, but she is a little mean to him at times. He outweighs her by almost 200 lbs. but she is still the "boss".
Jangle(in the foreground below) is the alpha of the pair. She is bossy with her sister and more stand-offish with strangers. Although the girls look very similar in terms of size and color, Jangle is a bit larger, especially her head. When we need to move the girls, we put the lead on Jangle, because Jingle is sure to follow.
Jangle's Birthday is April 18, 2017
THE LEGEND OF THE DONKEY
There was once a farmer near Jerusalem who had a donkey that didn’t grow tall and strong. One night at the supper table, he announced to his family that he was going to kill the donkey as it wasn’t good for any work. His children loved the sweet little donkey so much they cried and begged their father to give him away instead. Although the farmer, could not imagine anyone wanting a donkey that was too small to do a day of work, he agreed to let the children tie the donkey to a tree on the road to town telling passersby that they could have him at no cost.
Soon, two men approached and asked if they could have the donkey. “Jesus of Nazareth has need of a small donkey,” one of them said. Even though the farmer saw no use for the worthless donkey, the disciples of Christ, saw his potential.
When the men took the little donkey to Jesus, He stroked the grateful donkey’s face and looked into his eyes. He then mounted the donkey and rode away. It was on the day we call Palm Sunday, when Jesus led his followers into the city of Jerusalem riding on the back of a small, common donkey.
The little donkey loved his gentle master so much that he later followed him to Calvary. Stricken by grief at the sight of Jesus’ suffering, he turned his back to the cross, but could not leave. It was then that the shadow of the cross fell upon the back and shoulders of the donkey. Because of his loyalty and love for Christ, donkeys still wear the mark of the cross on their backs to this day.
Snowball - Born 4/27/16
Jingle (with Farmer Scott below) is the sweetest little soul. She is always the first to come to you looking for love. She loves to be touched and talked to. Her nose is super soft and she likes to be petted on her forehead. When her bangs get too long, we trim them straight across so she looks a little like "Moe" from the Three Stooges!
Jingle's Birthday is April 20, 2017
Mistletoe - Born 5/1/16
Kringle - Born 4/17/17
Kringle is the resident trouble maker at our farm. He is the "WILD CHILD". He can be unpredictable and moody. He is the only silver colored reindeer in the herd with bright white markings inside his ears, around his eyes, nose and feet. He, too, is quite an escape artist and must be double locked in the pasture at all times to keep him from following you around. He has tons of energy and personality. He sometimes irritates the other reindeer due to his abundant enthusiasm! Sven was his best friend and he went through a difficult time when he passed away. Kringle became Sugar Plum's mate in the summer of 2018 and he is very happy to have a new best friend.
Griswold is the newest member of the Snowman Family. Gizzy was "mom-raised" meaning that Mistletoe had milk and nursed him rather than being bottle fed by humans. He is a BIG boy, already breaking previous farm records for weight, height and antler growth for a baby. At 4 months old he developed a 5 point rack and was almost as tall as his mother when he stopped nursing. We actually had to wean him because he got so aggressive with nursing he nearly knocked his mom off her feet. He is a bundle of energy and quite stubborn. We think he is going to be a handful!
Miniature Donkeys are friendly, naturally curious creatures who form loving bonds with their humans. They are generally easy to care for and maintain. They have large teeth on both the top and bottom of their mouth like a horse. They usually gently nibble with their soft lips when trained properly. They are easy to train, but can be cautious when facing new situations. Thus, their reputation for being “stubborn”.
Miniature Donkeys are descendants from the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia, Italy. They were first introduced in the U.S. in 1929 and there are over 50,000 registered today. To qualify as a “mini”, they must be no taller than 36” at the withers (the highest spot on their back behind the neck and above the shoulders). Females are called “jennets” or “jennies”. Males are called “Jacks”. Males who have been castrated (no testicles) are called “geldings”. The life expectancy of a well-cared for Miniature Donkey is 30-35 years. The average donkey weighs 250 – 450 lbs. and come in a variety of colors including grey, brown, rust, black or spotted.
Baby Girl Snowflake - March 20, 2017