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Do Female Reindeer Have Antlers? (Plus Other Identification Methods)

Do Female Reindeer Have Antlers? (Plus Other Identification Methods)

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Have you ever wondered how to identify the sex of a male or a female reindeer? It’s an interesting science tidbit that can help you figure out whether you are looking at a male or a female reindeer.

Reindeer and caribou are both the same animals, so let’s get that out of the way first. For instance, in Europe, they are known as reindeer, but in North America, people refer to them as caribou.

If you take a look at a reindeer outside in its natural habitat, it might never occur to you that you can distinguish between a male and a female reindeer simply by looking at their physical behavior and traits.

It’s common knowledge that reindeer are sexually dimorphic creatures. This means that they exhibit slightly different traits apart from their sexual organs.

However, you should know that identifying a female reindeer from a male one is actually quite easy, and doesn’t require a whole lot of effort.

The Antlers

First of all, let’s get the main question out of the way; do female reindeers have antlers?

Well, caribou, or reindeers, have the unique distinction of being the only species of deer where both the male and the female have antlers. In fact, most other species of deer do not share this trait; females usually do not have any antlers.

But, you should know that while a great number of female reindeer usually do not have antlers, there are a few exceptions that exist. If you see a reindeer without any antlers, you can easily identify it as a female. It’s pretty straightforward!

Also, it’s important to note that when a female reindeer does have antlers, the size is quite different.

The antlers of the female reindeer are considerably smaller than those of the male. On top of that, there’s also a subtle change in the growth. Female antlers are considerably linear when compared with those of a male reindeer.

Moreover, you might be able to identify the reindeer based on the season. It’s strange, but true.

Male reindeers generally lose their antlers during the winter season, whereas the female keeps hers on all throughout until spring. This makes it easy for the female reindeer, especially those that are expecting, to forage on the ground amidst the heavy snow and find food and other things.

So, it’s easy for you to get a better idea about male or female reindeer just by looking at their antlers.

But, you should know that simply looking at the antlers isn’t enough. There are quite a few other ways by which you can identify the differences between a male or a female reindeer.

So, in the next few paragraphs, we will talk about some of the defining characteristics that set them apart.

As mentioned, not all of the female reindeer usually have antlers on them, because growing these antlers requires a considerable amount of energy. In areas where food is scarce and not readily available, females usually do not have any antlers. You might notice this happening in remote areas.

Antlers are designed to provide a bit of defense for the female reindeer, as it allows them to protect their patches from the snow and clean them up. If you take a look at a herd of reindeer, you might notice that females with the longest antlers are usually the most socially dominant, and are generally in prime physical condition.

Physical Differences During the Reproductive Season

As the reproductive season begins, the male reindeer takes on quite a few characteristics that makes it easy for the female to identify their sex.

Ultimately, if you know these physical differences, you will be able to identify them too! During the reproductive season, many male reindeer usually engage in tough, life-threatening battles with others to attract the attention of their female counterparts.

One of the physical differences that you will notice is the growth of long hair just below their neck. The belly of the male reindeer also begins to push inward ever so slightly.

Moreover, their neck begins to take on a slightly broader and a longer appearance, so they automatically begin to look slightly bigger and leaner.

These physical differences usually occur in anticipation of the fall rut, which usually begins from October and goes all the way to November.

As the victor, the reindeer is able to select a female for their own harem of sorts. Each harem generally has between five and 15 female reindeer in them.

The Mating Behavior

This might be slightly more difficult to identify without prolonged observation, but the behavior of the reindeer could also indicate their sex.

If a reindeer begins to run after another one, the chances are pretty high that the one running behind is the male. By default, male reindeer usually run after the females.

More importantly, you might see some sort of weird behavior by the male reindeer, usually motivated by their desire to impress the female. For instance, the male reindeer will usually beat its antlers against the shrubs.

The female deer is generally slightly smaller in weight and in height when compared with the male deer. Generally, their weight ranges from around 50 pounds all the way to 250 pounds. When they are fully grown, they can reach around three feet in height.

Moreover, you will notice female deer usually walking around with their young ones, also known as fawns. Female reindeer are usually quite protective of their babies. They generally give birth to up to three babies at a time, and they generally remain with the mothers for more than a year.

On the other hand, the male reindeer aren’t usually seen around with the fawn. You will mostly find them with other male reindeer.

Similarly, if you want to identify beyond all doubt whether it’s a male or a female, you should consider looking on the underside, for any evidence of teats or mammary glands.

Female deer generally have four mammary glands, and they continue feeding the fawn for up to four months after giving birth.

Now that you know how to identify these wonderful creatures, here are a few fascinating facts about these wonderful creatures.

Their Noses Serve an Important Purpose

You might have seen reindeer walking around in the snowy areas and blowing cold air through their mouths. One of the distinctive features of reindeer is their elongated noses.

The reason why these reindeer usually have such long noses is because it allows them to heat up the air before it reaches their lungs.

They Can Find Each Other in a Blizzard

This might come as a surprise to most people, but you should know that certain species of reindeer have the ability to find each other, even in the case of a blizzard. When they walk, they produce a clicking noise.

This clicking noise helps them find each other in stormy cold conditions and remain in a huddle, thus keeping each other safe. It’s one of the most unique features that have been observed in reindeer in the wild.

They Migrate

You should know that these reindeer are able to migrate over considerably longer distances. In fact, they are able to walk over 3,000 miles in a year, considerably higher than any other land mammal.

They usually walk across the country and move from one place to another together, usually in search of food.

Golden Eagles Don’t Like Them

Reindeer are massive, but you should know that they are a favorite prey of the golden eagle. Golden eagles love to prey on the calves during the fall and the spring season.

When reindeer are usually walking out in the open, golden eagles are able to swoop down and sink their talons into the calves, taking them whole with them.

There have been countless cases where reindeer have been targeted like this, which is why most reindeers prefer walking in the shade of trees. The trees block the golden eagle from swooping down and generating enough momentum to take the entire animal along with them.

They Are Under Threat

Reindeer are pretty beautiful creatures and like to keep to themselves. Despite the fact that they have been herded for centuries by Subarctic and Arctic people, they prefer the tundra.

However, their existence is under threats due to global warming and oil exploration. They have been driven further inland and are now being sorely affected by human-caused pressures. Therefore, action needs to be taken on all accounts to protect these animals.

Reindeer are under considerable threat due to human-caused activity around the globe, and it’s important that conservation efforts are taken up to protect these majestic creatures.

Thankfully, action is being taken. There are quite a few conservation societies that are working on protecting the population of reindeer and are introducing reforms that can help further protect them from human-caused harm.

These are just some things that you should know about these gorgeous animals that roam the wildlands and can often be seen in the distance if you are careful when approaching them!


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