C.H. Smith, 1827
7 sp., 2 extinct, see text
The reindeer is a widespread and numerous species in the northern Holarctic. Originally, the reindeer was found in Scandinavia, eastern Europe, Russia, Mongolia, and northern China north of the 50th latitude. In North America, it was found in Canada, Alaska (USA), and the northern conterminous USA from Washington to Maine. In the 19th century, it was apparently still present in southern Idaho. It also occurred naturally on Sakhalin, Greenland, and probably even in historical times in Ireland. During the late Pleistocene era, reindeer were found as far south as Nevada and Tennessee in North America and Spain in Europe. Today, wild reindeer have disappeared from many areas within this large historical range, especially from the southern parts, where it vanished almost everywhere. Large populations of wild reindeer are still found in Norway, Siberia, Greenland, Alaska, and Canada.
Domesticated reindeer are mostly found in northern Fennoscandia and Russia, with a herd of approximately 50 reindeer living around the Cairngorms region in Scotland. The last remaining wild tundra reindeer in Europe are found in portions of southern Norway. The southern boundary of the species' natural range is approximately at 62° north latitude.
A few reindeer from Norway were introduced to the South Atlantic island of South Georgia in the beginning of the 20th century. Today, there are two distinct herds still thriving there, permanently separated by glaciers. Their total numbers are no more than a few thousand. The flag and the coat of arms of the territory contain an image of a reindeer. Around 4000 reindeer have been introduced into the French sub-Antarctic archipelago of Kerguelen Islands. East Iceland has a small herd of about 4000-5000 animals.
Caribou and reindeer numbers have fluctuated historically, but many herds are in decline across their range. This global decline is linked to climate change for northern, migratory caribou and reindeer herds and industrial disturbance of caribou habitat for sedentary, non-migratory herds.
The female varies in weight between 60 and 170 kg (130 and 370 lb) and measures 162–205 cm (64–81 in) long. The male (or "bull") is typically larger (although the extent to which varies in the different subspecies), weighing 100–318 kg (220–700 lb) and measuring 180–214 cm (71–84 in) in head-and-body length. Shoulder height can measure from 80–150 cm (31–59 in), and the tail adds 14–20 cm (5.5–7.9 in). Both sexes grow antlers, which (in the Scandinavian variety) for old males fall off in December, for young males in the early spring, and for females in the summer. The antlers typically have two separate groups of points (see image), a lower and upper. Domesticated reindeer are shorter-legged and heavier than their wild counterparts. The bull reindeer's antlers are the second largest of any extant deer, after the moose, and can range up to 100 cm (39 in) in width and 135 cm (53 in) in beam length. They have the largest antlers relative to body size among deer.
Reindeer have specialized noses featuring nasal turbinate bones that dramatically increase the surface area within the nostrils. Incoming cold air is warmed by the animal's body heat before entering the lungs, and water is condensed from the expired air and captured before the deer's breath is exhaled, used to moisten dry incoming air and possibly absorbed into the blood through the mucous membranes.
Reindeer hooves adapt to the season: in the summer, when the tundra is soft and wet, the footpads become sponge-like and provide extra traction. In the winter, the pads shrink and tighten, exposing the rim of the hoof, which cuts into the ice and crusted snow to keep it from slipping. This also enables them to dig down (an activity known as "cratering") through the snow to their favorite food, a lichen known as reindeer moss. The knees of many species of reindeer are adapted to produce a clicking sound as they walk.
Reindeer are ruminants, having a four-chambered stomach. They mainly eat lichens in winter, especially reindeer moss. However, they also eat the leaves of willows and birches, as well as sedges and grasses. There is some evidence to suggest that on occasion, they will also feed on lemmings, arctic char, and bird eggs. Reindeer herded by the Chukchis have been known to devour mushrooms enthusiastically in late summer.
Mating occurs from late September to early November. Males battle for access to females. Two males will lock each other's antlers together and try to push each other away. The most dominant males can collect as many as 15-20 females to mate with. A male will stop eating during this time and lose much of its body reserves.
Calves may be born the following May or June. After 45 days, the calves are able to graze and forage but continue suckling until the following fall and become independent from their mothers.
The reindeer travels the furthest of any terrestrial mammal, traveling up to 5,000 km (3,100 mi) a year, although in Europe the animal does not migrate as far, and covering 1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi). Normally travelling about 19–55 km (12–34 mi) a day while migrating, the caribou can run at speeds of 60–80 km/h (37–50 mph). During the spring migration smaller herds will group together to form larger herds of 50,000 to 500,000 animals but during autumn migrations, the groups become smaller, and the reindeer begin to mate. During the winter, reindeer travel to forested areas to forage under the snow. By spring, groups leave their winter grounds to go to the calving grounds. A reindeer can swim easily and quickly, normally at 6.5 km/h (4.0 mph) but if necessary at 10 km/h (6.2 mph), and migrating herds will not hesitate to swim across a large lake or broad river.
There are a variety of predators that prey heavily on reindeer. Golden Eagles prey on calves and are the most prolific hunter on calving grounds. Wolverine will take newborn calves or birthing cows, as well as (less commonly) infirm adults. Brown Bears and (in the rare cases where they encounter each other) Polar bears prey on reindeer of all ages but (as with the wolverine) are most likely to attack weaker animals such as calves and sick deer. The Gray Wolf is the most effective natural predator of adult reindeer, especially during the winter. As carrion, caribou are fed on by foxes, ravens and hawks. Blood-sucking insects, such as black flies and mosquitoes, are a plague to reindeer during the summer and can cause enough stress to inhibit feeding and calving behaviors. In one case, the entire body of a reindeer was found in a Greenland shark, the only shark typically found near the North Pole. The population numbers of some of these predators is influenced by the migration of reindeer. During the Ice Ages, they faced Dire wolves, Cave lions, American lions, Short-faced bears, Cave hyenas, Smilodons, Jaguars, Cougars, and possibly the ground sloth.
Reindeer hunting by humans has a very long history, and caribou/wild reindeer "may well be the species of single greatest importance in the entire anthropological literature on hunting."
Humans started hunting reindeer in the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, and humans are today the main predator in many areas. Norway and Greenland have unbroken traditions of hunting wild reindeer from the ice age until the present day. In the non-forested mountains of central Norway, such as Jotunheimen, it is still possible to find remains of stone-built trapping pits, guiding fences, and bow rests, built especially for hunting reindeer. These can, with some certainty, be dated to the Migration Period, although it is not unlikely that they have been in use since the Stone Age.
Norway is now preparing to apply for nomination as a World Heritage Site for areas with traces and traditions of reindeer hunting in Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park, Reinheimen National Park and Rondane National Park in Central Sør-Norge (Southern Norway). There is in these parts of Norway an unbroken tradition of reindeer hunting from posglacial stone age until today.
Wild caribou are still hunted in North America and Greenland. In the traditional lifestyle of the Inuit people, Northern First Nations people, Alaska Natives, and the Kalaallit of Greenland, the caribou is an important source of food, clothing, shelter, and tools. Many Gwichʼin people, who depend on the Porcupine caribou, still follow traditional caribou management practices that include a prohibition against selling caribou meat and limits on the number of caribou to be taken per hunting trip.
The blood of the caribou was supposedly mixed with alcohol as drink by hunters and loggers in colonial Quebec to counter the cold. This drink is now enjoyed without the blood as a wine and whiskey drink known as Caribou.
Reindeer have been herded for centuries by several Arctic and Subarctic people including the Sami and the Nenets. They are raised for their meat, hides, antlers and, to a lesser extent, for milk and transportation. Reindeer are not considered fully domesticated, as they generally roam free on pasture grounds. In traditional nomadic herding, reindeer herders migrate with their herds between coast and inland areas according to an annual migration route, and herds are keenly tended. However, reindeer have never been bred in captivity, though they were tamed for milking as well as for use as draught animals or beasts of burden.
The use of reindeer as semi-domesticated livestock in Alaska was introduced in the late 1800s by Sheldon Jackson as a means of providing a livelihood for Native peoples there. Reindeer were imported first from Siberia, and later also from Norway. A regular mail run in Wales, Alaska, used a sleigh drawn by reindeer. In Alaska, reindeer herders use satellite telemetry to track their herds, using online maps and databases to chart the herd's progress.
The reindeer has (or has had) an important economic role for all circumpolar peoples, including the Saami, Nenets, Khants, Evenks, Yukaghirs, Chukchi, and Koryaks in Eurasia. It is believed that domestication started between the Bronze and Iron Ages. Siberian deer owners also use the reindeer to ride on (Siberian reindeer are larger than their Scandinavian relatives). For breeders, a single owner may own hundreds or even thousands of animals. The numbers of Russian herders have been drastically reduced since the fall of the Soviet Union. The fur and meat is sold, which is an important source of income. Reindeer were introduced into Alaska near the end of the 19th century; they interbreed with native caribou subspecies there. Reindeer herders on the Seward Peninsula have experienced significant losses to their herds from animals (such as wolves) following the wild caribou during their migrations.
Reindeer meat is popular in the Scandinavian countries. Reindeer meatballs are sold canned. Sautéed reindeer is the best-known dish in Lapland. In Alaska and Finland, reindeer sausage is sold in supermarkets and grocery stores. Reindeer meat is very tender and lean. It can be prepared fresh, but also dried, salted, hot- and cold-smoked. In addition to meat, almost all internal organs of reindeer can be eaten, some being traditional dishes.
Reindeer antler is powdered and sold as an aphrodisiac, nutritional or medicinal supplement to Asian markets.
Caribou have been a major source of subsistence for Canadian Inuit.
Both Aristotle and Theophrastus have short accounts - probably based on the same source - of an ox-sized deer species, named tarandos, living in the land of the Bodines in Scythia, which was able to change the colour of its fur to obtain camouflage. The latter is probably a misunderstanding of the seasonal change in reindeer fur colour. The descriptions have been interpreted as being of reindeer living in the southern Ural Mountains at c. 350 BC
There is an ox shaped like a stag. In the middle of its forehead a single horn grows between its ears, taller and straighter than the animal horns with which we are familiar. At the top this horn spreads out like the palm of a hand or the branches of a tree. The females are of the same form as the males, and their horns are the same shape and size.
According to Olaus Magnus's Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus - printed in Rome in 1555 - Gustav I of Sweden sent 10 reindeer to Albert I, Duke of Prussia, in the year 1533. It may be these animals that Conrad Gessner had seen or heard of.
The name rangifer, which Linnaeus chose as the name for the reindeer genus, was used by Albertus Magnus in his De animalibus, fol. Liber 22, Cap. 268: "Dicitur Rangyfer quasi ramifer". This word may go back to a Saami word raingo. For the origin of the word tarandus, which Linnaeus chose as the name for the species epithet, he made reference to Ulisse Aldrovandi's Quadrupedum omnium bisulcorum historia fol. 859—863, Cap. 30: De Tarando (1621). However, Aldrovandi - and before him Konrad Gesner - thought that rangifer and tarandus were two separate animals. In any case, the tarandos name goes back to Aristotle and Theophrastus - see above.
The name rein (-deer) is of Norse origin (Old Norse hreinn, which again goes back to Proto-Germanic hraina and Proto-Indo-European kroino meaning "horned animal"). In Finnish the reindeer is known as poro and in Sami poatsu (in Northern Sami boazu, in Southern Sami bovtse, in Lule Sami boatsoj). The name caribou comes, through French, from Mi'kmaq qalipu, meaning "snow shoveler", referring to its habit of pawing through the snow for food. In Inuktitut, the caribou is known by the name tuttuk (Labrador dialect). In Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi dialects the caribou is called atihkw.
Since 1961, reindeer have been divided into two major groups, the tundra reindeer with six subspecies and the woodland reindeer with three subspecies. Among the tundra subspecies are three small-bodied, high-Arctic island forms. These island subspecies are probably not closely related, since the Svalbard Reindeer seems to have evolved from large European Reindeer, whereas Peary Caribou and the extinct Arctic Reindeer are closely related and probably evolved in high-Arctic North America.
In the Santa Claus myth, Santa Claus's sleigh is pulled by flying reindeer. These were first named in the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas", where they are called Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder, and Blixem. Dunder was later changed to Donder and—in other works—Donner (in German, "thunder"), and Blixem was later changed to Bliksem, then Blitzen (German for "lightning"). Some consider Rudolph as part of the group as well, though he was not part of the original named work referenced previously. Rudolph was added by Robert L. May in 1939 as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".
Several Norwegian municipalities have one or more reindeer depicted in their coats-of-arms: Eidfjord, Porsanger, Rendalen, Tromsø, Vadsø, and Vågå. The historic province of Västerbotten in Sweden has a reindeer in its coat of arms. The present Västerbotten County has very different borders and uses the reindeer combined with other symbols in its coat-of-arms. The city of Piteå also has a reindeer. The logo for Umeå University features three reindeer.
The Canadian quarter features a depiction of a caribou on one face. The caribou is the official provincial animal of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and appears on the coat of arms of Nunavut. A caribou statue was erected at the center of the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, marking the spot in France where hundreds of soldiers from Newfoundland were killed and wounded in the First World War.
Caribou-specific links (North America)
Caribou is the most Northeastern City in the United States and located just 10 minutes from the Canadian border. The community was incorporated in 1859 and celebrates it's 150th birthday in 2009. The community has a rich agricultural history and is known for some of the finest snowmobiling in the Northeast.
Caribou is 1 hour north of Houlton on U.S Route 1. Travel times are approximately 3 hours north of Bangor, Maine, and 5 hours north of Portland, Maine. The community is 4 hours east of Quebec City and 2 hours north of Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Goughan's Berry Farm: Fresh pick your own berries, pumpkins and Christmas trees.
Caribou High School City facility, featuring lit nordic ski trails.
Caribou Recreation Center with indoor elevated walking track
Caribou Country Club, public 9 hole golf course and excellent nordic ski trials.
Aroostook river, trout and salmon fishing and kayaking, just minutes from city center.
Caribou Historical Society, museum just south of Caribou features many artifacts from early life in Caribou.
Swedish Colony, just 10 minutes from Caribou.
Edged in Stone Perennial Gardens and walking paths, Old Washburn Road.
Monica's Scandavian Gift Shop Sweden Street Caribou-Swedish gift shop.
Sleeper's, Rt. #1 Caribou grocery and clothing store with name brand clothing and footwear for men/ladies and youth.
Miller's Discount-Discount-Bennett Drive Caribou-discount department store.
Expect More Dollar Store, Bennett Drive.
Phil's Florist, Green house and Antiques, Washburn road, Caribou.
Burger Boy, open summers, burgers, ice cream & more Sweden Street Caribou.
Cindy's Sub Shop, homemade subs and sandwiches Sweden Street Caribou.
Sleeper's, offering cooked lobster and homemade rolls & salads, Rt #1 Caribou 498-8181.
Par & Grill, indoor golf and restaurant Bennett Drive Caribou.
Frederick's Southside, South Main Street
Jade Palace Chinese, Skyway Plaza
Napoli's Italian Restaurant, downtown Caribou across from S.W. Colins
Farms Bakery and Coffee Shop, fresh baked pastries
McDonald's Bennett Drive
Burger King, Bennett Drive
Pizza Hut, Bennett Drive
Reno's Pizza, Sweden Street
Greenhouse Restaurant at Caribou Inn and Convention Center
Sports Inn, bar & grill Bennett Drive
Jeff's family restaurant South Main Street
Big Cheese Pizza, South Main Street
Far East Kitchen Korean cuisine, Bennett Drive
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