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.
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.
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
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.
You will never meet a sweeter reindeer than little Kringle. He LOVES people and wants to be with you all the time. 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!
Baby Girl Snowflake - March 20, 2017
Snowball is Klaus' little brother and they are so much alike it is hilarious! Snowball gets into a lot of trouble and has the most distinct personality of the herd. 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 the first reindeer born at Snowman's Reindeer Farm: Sugar Plum.
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.
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. Miss Sugar Plum LOVES to be kissed, petted and held. She is a beautiful, sweet addition to our already magical group of reindeer.
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.
Snowman's Reindeer Farm in Canton, IL