With the holiday season upon us, houses are being decorated with all sorts of apparel; sparkling lights drape from rooftops, wreaths hang on doors, snowmen frolic in the front yard, and furry creatures with big antlers pull a man in a bright red suit through the snow to deliver presents for good little boys and girls.
These creatures may look familiar to some, but just how well do you know Santa’s reindeer? Many people have seen North America’s Whitetail Deer; brown fur, large ears, and a big white bushy tail. But is this the deer that pulls Santa’s sleigh?
Let’s compare our White-Tailed Deer to the fabled Reindeer (also known as Caribou) in the stories.
White-Tailed Deer have light brown coats with white underbellies. Males (Buck) have antlers that are regrown every year around January, while females (Doe) never grow antlers. They have slender faces with distinct black noses on a white muzzle and neck.
Caribou have mottled brown, grey, and white coats, with noticeably longer fur. Both the males (Bull) and females (Cows) have antlers that are regrown every year. Bulls lose their antlers by mid-winter, but most cows keep their antlers until spring! They have broad faces with a light colored nose on a dark muzzle.
White-Tailed Deer reside in the forests and meadows across North America. They have thick coats to protect them against the cold, but they have thin legs and pointed hooves that are not adept to functioning well in deep snow and ice.
Caribou are native to the Boreal Forests and Tundra that form a ring around the top portion of the Northern Hemisphere. They have thick fur and stout bodies to keep them warm throughout most of the year. They also have wide hooves which help them walk on top of snow and ice.
White-Tailed Deer are wild animals. Most often they are hunted for their meat, antlers, and hide. It is illegal in the state of Maryland to own White-Tails as pets.
Caribou are considered semi-domestic animals. They are bred and used as work animals. Many people use them to pull sleds, carry heavy loads, and to ride! While they are illegal in the state of Maryland to own, they are allowed in other parts of the country, including Pennsylvania.
While neither deer species has a red nose to help guide the way, it seems that Caribou are better adapted to the cold and snowy conditions they would experience while pulling Santa’s sleigh!