Features of the European Reindeer
have learned to adapt to the harsh and often
barren environments of their homelands.
They have evolved to withstand these
environments through all seasons.
Coat and Hair
Reindeer have coats
that change colour with the seasons. Reindeer
fur is thick to protect the skin through the coldest periods of winter
when temperatures are well below 0°C. Reindeer coats
are made up of very dense layers of hair with an outer layer of
hollow hair to protect the finer layer beneath. The outer layer
contains up to 5000 hairs
per square inch. The inner layer is fine and woolly with
approximately 1300 hairs per square inch. These
layers of fur insulate, helping reindeer
maintain their core temperatures
even when the air temperatures are extremely bitter. When reindeer rest
or lay down on the snow, the snow doesn't melt because the
fur retains body heat.
The outer hairs offer more than insulation
value. Reindeer swim, and the hollow hairs act as air pockets making it
easier to for them to stay afloat.
These outer hairs also keep the icy water off
In winter, reindeer grow long hair to
protect their muzzles from the snow as they sniff and graze for lichen,
their primary winter food.
Sense of Smell
Reindeer rely heavily on their above
average sense of smell which help them locate the lichen beneath
snow-packed plains. Their sense of smell also alerts them to danger.
They have large eyes, which may deceive their sight capabilities. Their
eyesight is one of their weakest senses.
Created for the Tundra
Reindeer have unique
bone structures inside their noses which
enable their nostrils to open wide,
warming cold air before it enters the lungs.
Due to less than adequate eyesight,
reindeer have found other ways to stay in
touch with their herds
in blizzard conditions. Their leg tendons snap when they walk resulting
in a clicking sound.
are made of keratin and assorted proteins, but the inner core is bone.
Reindeer are the
only species of mammal in which both males and females grow antlers.
They are also the only mammal with antlers that regenerate.
Reindeer antlers grow directly from
the skull. They are soft and flexible, and
because they emerged from living tissue, they are also living tissue
with an extended vascular system, warm to the touch.
The antlers show dominance and hierarchy
in the herd, but they have other purposes as well. Females
keep their antlers through the winter which
helps them compete fairly for food.
They drop their
antlers in spring during calving season. Male reindeer shed their
antlers in the winter and grow them back in the spring.
Reindeer have been
important to the northern indigenous people of
Scandinavia throughout known history. Reindeer are
fascinating animals that
have adapted to their
traditional environments in ways that allow them
to survive even the harshest temperatures and blizzards.