Reindeer Games – Eight facts about Arctic reindeer and one great gift idea

While a few famous reindeer may be busy this holiday season, the activities of the rest of their Canadian cousins are virtually unknown. In honour of Santa’s eight iconic reindeer, here is a list of the top eight things you may not know about Arctic caribou.

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). © Wild Wonders of Europe /Munier / WWF
Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). © Wild Wonders of Europe /Munier / WWF

1. Dashing names

Did you know that caribou and reindeer are the same species? In Canada, we refer to Rangifer tarandus as “caribou” and they are typically wild. Elsewhere in the world they are called “reindeer” and often domesticated. Canada is home to hundreds of thousands of wild reindeer, we just call them by a different name.

2. Dancer’s range

Arctic herds of reindeer migrate north in the summer and south in the winter, travelling up to 2,500 km each year.

3. Prancer’s tools

Reindeer’s hooves are large and rounded, which they use for digging for food under the snow (also called cratering).

Bring home your own reindeer this holiday season.


4. Vixens

Female reindeers, or cows, migrate north each summer a few weeks earlier than the males.

5. Comet-like speed

Reindeer travel up to 55 km per day and reach a top speed of 80 km/h.

6. Cupid’s role

Reindeer traditionally form single-sex herds, meeting up in the fall to mate.

7. Donners

Reindeer provide a significant source of traditional food and clothing for indigenous people in the North.

8. Blitzen

Blitzen is German a flash of light, and scientists have found that reindeer’s eyes and vision change throughout the year as they deal with full light of sun at the summer solstice and pure darkness in the winter.
There is a dramatic overall downward trend across the majority of Arctic caribou herds in Canada, making caribou among one of Canada’s greatest wildlife conservation concerns. The Bathurst herd in the Northwest Territories, for example, has dropped from 472,000 individuals in 1987 to less than 20,000 in 2015, and the Baffin Island herd is down 95 per cent, to only 5,000 individuals.
WWF-Canada’s Arctic program:

  • Protects Arctic caribou calving areas.
  • Tracks the population status of the herds
  • Speaks up on specific projects that threaten caribou
  • Partners with companies that are changing their operations to ensure the protection of this iconic Canadian species.

You can help populations rebound by symbolically adopting a reindeer now.
Each adoption kit includes a cuddly toy, personalized adoption certificate, a stunning species poster, a reusable tote bag and an applicable tax receipt.
Give a wildlife adoption as a gift today to help species at risk.
To ensure delivery before Dec. 25, please order by Dec. 15 with Regular Shipping (Dec. 13 for rural addresses). Priority options are available, and shipping is free with the purchase of two or more adoptions kits to the same Canadian address.