||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with North America and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (May 2014)|
Temporal range: Pleistocene 620,000 BP to present
|Strolling reindeer in the Kebnekaise valley, Sweden|
C.H. Smith, 1827
Also see text
|Reindeer habitat divided into North American and Eurasian parts|
The reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), also known as caribou in North America, is a species of deer native to Arctic, Subarctic, tundra, boreal and mountainous regions. This includes both sedentary and migratory populations.
Reindeer vary considerably in colour and size. In most populations, both sexes grow antlers annually, but females lack antlers in a few. Antlers are typically larger in males.
Hunting of wild reindeer and herding of semi-domesticated reindeer (for meat, hides, antlers, milk and transportation) are important to several Arctic and Subarctic peoples. The reindeer is well known in folklore due to Santa Claus's sleigh being pulled by flying reindeer, a popular element of Christmas. In Lapland, reindeer pull pulks.
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 specific 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.
Because of its importance to many cultures, Rangifer tarandus and some of its subspecies have names in many languages. The name rein (-deer) is of Norse origin (Old Norse hreinn, which again goes back to Proto-Germanic *hrainaz and Proto-Indo-European *kroinos meaning "horned animal"). In the Uralic languages, Sami *poatsoj (in Northern Sami boazu, in Lule Sami boatsoj, in Pite Sami båtsoj, in Southern Sami bovtse), Maripuc? and Udmurt pudžej, all referring to domesticated reindeer, go back to *pocaw, an Iranian loan word deriving from Proto-Indo-European *pe?u-, meaning "cattle". The Finnish name poro may also stem from the same.
The species taxonomic name Rangifer tarandus (reindeer, caribou, caribou, Reindeer) was defined by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. The subspecies taxonomic name, Rangifer tarandus caribou was defined by Gmelin in 1788.
Some recent authorities have considered them all valid, even suggesting that they are quite distinct. In their book entitled Mammal Species of the World, American zoologist Don E. Wilson and DeeAnn Reeder agree with Valerius Geist, specialist on large North American mammals, that this range actually includes several subspecies.[Notes 1]
Mallory and Hillis argued that, "Although the taxonomic designations reflect evolutionary events, they do not appear to reflect current ecological conditions. In numerous instances, populations of the same subspecies have evolved different demographic and behavioural adaptations, while populations from separate subspecies have evolved similar demographic and behavioural patterns... "[U]nderstanding ecotype in relation to existing ecological constraints and releases may be more important than the taxonomic relationships between populations."
|subspecies||name||migratory||division||range||weight of male|
|R. t. buskensis (1915)||woodland||Russia and neighbouring regions||no data|
|R. t. caboti** (G. M. Allen, 1914)[Notes 2]|
|R. t. caribou (Gmelin, 1788)||Woodland caribou – woodland caribou, includes migratory woodland caribou||sedentary[Notes 3]||boreal forest||south Canada and northwest U.S. mainland||largest|
|R. t. granti||Porcupine caribou, Grant's caribou||migratory||tundra||Alaska, United States, and Yukon, Canada|
|R. t. fennicus (Lönnberg, 1909)||Finnish forest reindeer||woodland||northwest Russia, and Finland||150–250 kg (330–550 lb)|
|R. t. groenlandicus (Borowski, 1780)||barren-ground caribou||migratory||tundra||Nunavut and Northwest Territories, Canada, and western Greenland||150 kg (330 lb)|
|R. tarandus osborni** (J. A. Allen, 1902)[Notes 2]||Osborn's caribou||British Columbia, Canada||no data|
|R. t. pearsoni (Lydekker, 1903)||Novaya Zemlya reindeer||island subspecies make local movements||Novaya Zemlya, Russia||no data|
|R. t. pearyi (J. A. Allen, 1902)||Peary caribou||island subspecies make local movements||high arctic islands of Nunavut and Northwest Territories, Canada||smallest in North America|
|R. t. phylarchus (Hollister, 1912)||Kamchatka reindeer||woodland||Kamchatka and regions bordering the Sea of Okhotsk, Russia||no data|
|R. t. platyrhynchus (Vrolik, 1829)||Svalbard reindeer||island subspecies make local movements||Svalbard islands of Norway||smallest subspecies|
|R. t. sibiricus (Murray, 1866)||Siberian tundra reindeer||Siberia, Russia||no data|
|R. t. tarandus (Linnaeus, 1758) – caribou||Mountain reindeer – caribou||tundra or mountain||Arctic tundra of Fennoscandia peninsula in Norway||no data|
|R. t. terraenovae** (Bangs, 1896)[Notes 2]|
|R. t. valentinae**||Ural Mountains, Russia, and Altai Mountains, Mongolia||no data|
|subspecies||name||migratory||tundra||range||height of male||extinct since|
|R. t. dawsoni (Thompson-Seton, 1900)||†Queen Charlotte Islands caribou||extinct||no||Queen Charlotte Islands||no data||1910|
|R. t. eogroenlandicus||†Arctic reindeer||extinct||no||eastern Greenland||no data||1900|
The table above includes R. tarandus caboti (Labrador caribou), R. tarandus osborni (Osborn's caribou – from British Columbia) and R. tarandus terraenovae (Newfoundland caribou). Based on a review in 1961, these were considered invalid and included in R. tarandus caribou, but some recent authorities have considered them all valid, even suggesting that they are quite distinct. An analysis of mtDNA in 2005 found differences between the caribous from Newfoundland, Labrador, south-western Canada and south-eastern Canada, but maintained all in R. tarandus caribou.
There are seven subspecies of reindeer of which only two are found in Fennoscandia: Eurasian tundra (or mountain) reindeer (R. t. tarandus) in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia and Eurasian forest reindeer R. t. fennicus in Finland and Russia.
Grubb (2005) noted that subspecies and divisions below** are considered valid based on Banfield (1961) and considerably modified by Geist (1998):
Woodland Caribou division:
Populations transitional between caribou and tarandus divisions includes osborni.
Tarandus division, Barren-ground Caribou or Reindeer
Some of the Rangifer tarandus subspecies may be further divided by ecotype depending on several behavioural factors – predominant habitat use (northern, tundra, mountain, forest, boreal forest, forest-dwelling, woodland, woodland (mountain), woodland (boreal), woodland (migratory), spacing (dispersed or aggregated), and migration (sedentary or migratory).
The "glacial-interglacial cycles of the upper Pleistocene had a major influence on the evolution" of Rangifer tarandus and other Arctic and sub-Arctic species. Isolation of Rangifer tarandus in refugia during the last glacial – the Wisconsin in North America and the Weichselian in Eurasia-shaped "intraspecific genetic variability" particularly between the North American and Eurasian parts of the Arctic.
In 1986 Kurtén reported that the oldest reindeer fossil was an "antler of tundra reindeer type from the sands of Süssenborn" in the Pleistocene (Günz) period (680,000 to 620,000 BP). By the 4-Würm period (110-70,000 to 12–10,000) its European range was very extensive. Reindeer occurred in
... Spain, Italy and southern Russia. Reindeer [was] particularly abundant in the Magdalenian deposits from the late part of the 4-Wurm just before the end of the Ice Age: at that time and at the early Mesolithic it was the game animal for many tribes. The supply began to get low during the Mesolithic, when reindeers retired to the north.—Kurtén 1968:170
"In spite of the great variation, all the Pleistocene and living reindeer belong to the same species."
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.
In most populations both sexes grow antlers and it is the only cervid species in which females grow them as well as males. In the Scandinavian populations, old males' antlers fall off in December, young males' fall off in the early spring, and females' fall off in the summer. The antlers typically have two separate groups of points, a lower and upper. There is considerable subspecific variation in the size of the antlers (e.g., rather small and spindly in the northernmost subspecies), but, on average, the bull reindeer's antlers are the second largest of any extant deer, after the moose. In the largest races, the antlers of big males 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 living deer species.
The colour of the fur varies considerably, both individually and depending on season and subspecies. Northern populations, which usually are relatively small, are whiter, while southern populations, which typically are relatively large, are darker. This can be seen well in North America, where the northernmost subspecies, the Peary caribou, is the whitest and smallest subspecies of the continent, while the southernmost subspecies, the woodland caribou, is the darkest and largest. The coat has two layers of fur: a dense woolly undercoat and longer-haired overcoat consisting of hollow, air-filled hairs.
Like moose, 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 females usually measure 162–205 cm (64–81 in) in length and weigh 80–120 kg (180–260 lb). The males (or "bulls") are typically larger (although the extent to which varies in the different subspecies), measuring 180–214 cm (71–84 in) in length and usually weighing 159–182 kg (351–401 lb). Exceptionally large males have weighed as much as 318 kg (701 lb). Shoulder height typically measure from 85 to 150 cm (33 to 59 in), and the tail is 14 to 20 cm (5.5 to 7.9 in) long. The reindeer from Svalbard are the smallest. They are also relatively short-legged and may have a shoulder height of as little as 80 cm (31 in), thereby following Allen's rule.
The knees of many species of reindeer are adapted to produce a clicking sound as they walk. The sounds originate in the tendons of the knees and may be audible from ten meters away. The frequency of the knee-clicks is one of an array of signals that establish relative positions on a dominance scale among reindeer. "Specifically, loud knee-clicking is discovered to be an honest signal of body size, providing an exceptional example of the potential for non-vocal acoustic communication in mammals."
A study conducted by researchers from the University College London in 2011 revealed that reindeer can see light with wavelengths as short as 320 nm, considerably below the human threshold of 400 nm. It is thought that this ability helps them to survive in the Arctic, because many objects that blend into the landscape in normally visible light, such as urine and fur, produce sharp contrasts in ultraviolet. A study at the University of Tromsø has confirmed that "Arctic reindeer eyes change in colour through the seasons from gold through to blue to help them better detect predators...".
Reindeer are ruminants, having a four-chambered stomach. They mainly eat lichens in winter, especially reindeer moss – a unique adaptation among mammals, and they are the only animals except for some gastropods where the enzyme lichenase, which breaks down lichenin to glucose, have been found. 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, especially in the spring when they are nutritionally stressed, they will also feed on small rodents such as lemmings, fish such as 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 his 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 autumn and become independent from their mothers.
Some populations of the North American caribou, for example, many herds in the subspecies barren-ground caribou and some woodland caribou in Ungava and Labrador, migrate the farthest of any terrestrial mammal, travelling up to 5,000 km (3,100 mi) a year, and covering1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi). Other North American populations, the woodland caribou (boreal) for example, are largely sedentary. In Europe populations have a shorter migration. Island herds such as the subspecies R. t. pearsoniand R. t. platyrhynchus make local movements.
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). Young caribou can already outrun an Olympic sprinter when only a day old. 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 at10 km/h (6.2 mph), and migrating herds will not hesitate to swim across a large lake or broad river.
Originally, the reindeer was found in Scandinavia, eastern Europe, Greenland, 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. Even in historical times, it probably occurred naturally in Ireland. During the late Pleistocene era, reindeer were found as far south as Nevada and Tennessee in North America, and as far south as 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, Finland, Siberia, Greenland, Alaska, and Canada.
According to the Grubb (2005), Rangifer tarandus is "circumboreal in the tundra and taiga" from "Svalbard, Norway, Finland, Russia, Alaska (USA) and Canada including most Arctic islands, and Greenland, south to northern Mongolia, China (Inner Mongolia; now only domesticated or feral?), Sakhalin Islands, and USA (Northern Idaho and the Great Lakes region). Reindeer were introduced to, and feral in, Iceland, Kerguelen Islands, South Georgia Island, Pribilof Islands, St. Matthew Island."
There is strong regional variation in Rangifer herd size, but many herds currently have unusually low numbers and their winter ranges in particular are smaller than they used to be. There are large population differences among individual herds, and the size of individual herds has varied greatly since 1970. The largest of all herds (Taimyr, Russia) has varied between 400,000 and 1,000,000; the second largest herd (George River, Canada) has varied between 28,000 and 385,000.
While the Rangifer is a widespread and numerous species in the northern Holarctic, being present in both tundra and taiga (boreal forest), by 2013, many herds had "unusually low numbers" and their winter ranges in particular were smaller than they used to be. 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 herds and industrial disturbance of habitat for non-migratory herds.
A variety of predators prey heavily on reindeer. Golden eagles prey on calves and are the most prolific hunter on calving grounds. Wolverines will take newborn calves or birthing cows, as well as (less commonly) infirm adults. Brown bears and polar bears prey on reindeer of all ages, but like the wolverines they are most likely to attack weaker animals, such as calves and sick deer, since healthy adult reindeer can usually outpace a bear. The gray wolf is the most effective natural predator of adult reindeer and sometimes takes large numbers, especially during the winter. Some wolf packs as well as individual grizzly bears in Canada may follow and live off of a particular reindeer herd year round.
As carrion, reindeer are fed on opportunistically 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. An adult reindeer will lose perhaps about 1 liter (2 pints) of blood to biting insects for every week it spends in the tundra. The population numbers of some of these predators is influenced by the migration of reindeer.
In one case, the entire body of a reindeer was found in the stomach of a Greenland shark, a species found in the far northern Atlantic, although this was quite possibly a case of scavenging considering the dissimilarity of habitats between the ungulate and the large, slow-moving fish.
In 2013 the Taimyr herd in Russia was the largest herd in the world. In 2000 the herd increased to 1,000,000 but by 2009, there were 700,000 animals. In the 1950s there were 110,000. There are three large herds of migratory tundra wild reindeer in central Siberia's Yakutia region: Lena-Olenek, Yana-Indigirka and Sundrun herds. While the population of the Lena-Olenek herd is stable, the others are declining.
Further east again, the Chukotka herd is also in decline. In 1971 there were 587,000 animals. They recovered after a severe decline in 1986 to only 32,200 individuals, but their numbers fell again. According to Kolpashikov, by 2009 there were less than 70,000.
There are four living subspecies of R. tarandus, locally known in North America as caribou: R. t. granti (Porcupine Caribou), R. t. groenlandicus and R. t. pearyi and R. t. caribou which is subdivided into ecotypes.
In North America, because of its vast range in a wide diversity of ecosystems, the subspecies Rangifer tarandus caribou is further distinguished by a number of ecotypes, including boreal woodland caribou, mountain woodland caribou and migratory woodland caribou). Populations—caribou that do not migrate—or herds—those that do migrate—may not fit into narrow ecotypes. For example, Banfield's 1961 classification of the migratory George River Caribou Herd, in the Ungava region of Quebec, as subspecies Rangifer tarandus caribou, woodland caribou, remains—although other woodland caribou are mainly sedentary.
The North American range of this Holarctic animal extends from Alaska, through the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, into the boreal forest and south through the Canadian Rockies and the Columbia and Selkirk Mountains. The caribou is a specialist that is well adapted to cooler climates with hollow-hair fur that covers almost all of its body including its nose, and provides insulation in winter and flotation for swimming. Two major subspecies in North America, the R. t. granti and the R. t. groenlandicus form large herds and undertake lengthy seasonal migrations from birthing grounds, to summer and winter feeding grounds in the tundra and taiga. The migrations of R. t. granti Porcupine herd are among the longest of any terrestrial mammal. The George River caribou herd (GRCH) of the R. t. caribou subspecies in the Ungava area—once the largest Rangifer tarandus herd in the world—declined to 74 131 animals—a drop of up to 92%. In 2011 the combined Beverly/Ahiak herd in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, had approximately 124 000 caribou— at least a 50% drop since 1994; the Western caribou herd had 325 000 animals and the Qamanirjuaq caribou herd which is relatively stable had declined from 496 000 in 1994 to 345 000 in 2008.
The meta-population of the more sedentary subspecies R. t. caribou or Woodland caribou spans the boreal forest from the Northwest Territories to Labrador. They are shy animals whose main food source is arboreal lichens  of the mature forests and mainly live in marshes, bogs, lakes, and river regions. Since it takes hundreds of years for a biomass of tree lichen to be adequate to sustain boreal woodland caribou populations, deforestation is a major factor in the decline of their numbers. The historic range of the boreal woodland caribou covered over half of present-day Canada, stretching from Alaska to Newfoundland and Labrador and as far south as New England, Idaho, and Washington. The smallest subspecies in North America, the Peary Caribou is found in the High and Low Arctic, in the Northwest Territories—particularly, Banks Island and in Nunavut—particularly, Baffin Island.
Although there are remnant populations of R. t. caribou boreal woodland caribou in the northern United States, most of U.S. caribou populations are in Alaska. The Western Arctic Caribou Herd (NACH) is the largest with 325,000 animals in 2011.
In Canada, the national meta-population of the sedentary boreal ecotype spans the boreal forest from the Northwest Territories to Labrador. They prefer lichen-rich mature forests and mainly live in marshes, bogs, lakes, and river regions.
According to Kolpashikov et al. (2013) there were four main populations of wild R. t. groenlandicus, barren-ground caribou, in west Greenland in 2013. The Kangerlussuaq-Sisimiut caribou herd, the largest had a population of around 98,000 animals in 2007. The "second largest, Akia-Maniitsoq decreased from an estimated 46,000 in 2001 to about 17,400 in 2010. According to Cuyler, "one possible cause might be the topography, which prevents hunter access in the former while permitting access in the latter."
The last remaining wild tundra reindeer in Europe are found in portions of southern Norway. In southern Norway in the mountain ranges, there are about 30,000–35,000 reindeer with 23 different populations. The largest herd with about 10,000 individuals, is at Hardangervidda. By 2013 the greatest challenges to management were "loss of habitat and migration corridors to piecemeal infrastructure development and abandonment of reindeer habitat as a result of human activities and disturbance."
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 post-glacial Stone Age until today.
The Svalbard reindeer subspecies R. t. platyrhynchus from Svalbard island is very small compared to other subspecies (a phenomenon known as insular dwarfism), with females having a length of approximately 150 cm (59 in), and a weight around 53 kg (117 lb) in the spring and 70 kg (150 lb) in the autumn. Males are approximately 160 cm (63 in) long, and weigh around 65 kg (143 lb) in the spring and 90 kg (200 lb) in the autumn. The reindeer from Svalbard are also relatively short-legged and may have a shoulder height of as little as 80 cm (31 in), thereby following Allen's rule.
The Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus subspecies, in Norway referred to as the Svalbard reindeer which seems to have evolved from large European reindeer. The Svalbard reindeer is special in several ways. Svalbard reindeer has peculiarities in its metabolism. The skeleton shows a remarkable relative shortening of the legs, thus parallelling many extinct insular deer species.
The Finnish forest reindeer (R. tarandus fennicus), is found in the wild in only two areas of the Fennoscandia peninsula of Northern Europe, in Finnish/Russian Karelia, and a small population in central south Finland. The Karelia population reaches far into Russia, however, so far that it remains an open question whether reindeer further to the east are R. t. fennicus as well.
East Iceland has a small herd of about 2500–3000 animals. Iceland (increasing or are stable at high numbers 2013) Iceland: Reindeer were introduced to Iceland (17) in the late 1700s cited in. The Icelandic reindeer population in July 2013 was estimated at approximately 6000. With a hunting quota of 1,229 animals, the winter 2013–2014 population is expected to be around 4800 reindeer
A few reindeer from Norway were introduced to the South Atlantic island of South Georgia in the beginning of the 20th century. The South Georgian reindeer total some 2,600 animals in two distinct herds separated by glaciers. Although the flag and the coat of arms of the territory contain an image of a reindeer, a decision was taken in 2011 to completely eradicate the animals from the island because of the environmental damage they cause.
Around 4000 reindeer have been introduced into the French sub-Antarctic archipelago of Kerguelen Islands.
The reindeer has 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. Furthermore, Lapin Poron liha, fresh reindeer meat completely produced and packed in Finnish Lapland, is protected in Europe with PDO classification.
Caribou have been a major source of subsistence for Canadian Inuit.
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."
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 Gwich'in 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 fur coat
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, and 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 were not bred in captivity, though they were tamed for milking as well as for use as draught animals or beasts of burden. Domesticated reindeer are shorter-legged and heavier than their wild counterparts.
The use of reindeer as semi-domesticated livestock in Alaska was introduced in the late 19th century by the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, with assistance from 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.
Domesticated reindeer are mostly found in northern Fennoscandia and Russia, with a herd of approximately 150–170 reindeer living around the Cairngorms region in Scotland. The last remaining wild tundra reindeer in Europe are found in portions of southern Norway. The International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR), a circumpolar organization, was established in 2005 by the Norwegian government. ICR represents over 20 indigenous reindeer peoples and about 100,000 reindeer herders in 9 different national states. In Finland, there are about 6,000 reindeer herders, most of which keep small herds of less than 50 reindeer to raise additional income. With 185,000 reindeer (2001), the industry produces 2,000 tons reindeer meat and generates 35 million euros annually. 70% of the meat is sold to slaughterhouses. Reindeer herders are eligible for national and EU agricultural subsidies, which constituted 15% of their income. Reindeer herding is of central importance for the local economies of small communities in the sparsely populated rural Lapland.
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.
During World War II, the Soviet Army used reindeer as pack animals to transport food, ammunition and post from Murmansk to the Karelian front and bringing wounded soldiers, pilots and equipment back to the base. About 6,000 reindeer and more than 1,000 reindeer herders were part of the operation. Most herders were Nenets, who were mobilized from the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, but reindeer herders from Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Komi also participated.
In the Santa Claus tale, 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 25-cent coin, or "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 and there is a replica in Bowring Park, in St. John's, Newfoundland's capital city.
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