European Reindeer

We have two reindeer here at Dartmoor Zoo - Tuula and Comet. Comet is Tuula's aunt. Reindeer are really fascinating creatures and have a number of incredibly cool adaptations. Reindeer are the only deer species in which both the male and female both have antlers. They grow these every year, and every year they get bigger! In the picture on the right Tuula's antlers are in the process of growing. When they are growing they have this layer of what is called 'velvet' over the top of them. When the antlers are fully grown this layer starts to peel off. During this time the reindeer tend to get a bit grouchy as it is not very pleasant for them, it is itchy, a bit like a scab, so they rub their antlers up against anything they can to try and get it off. 

Their knees make a clicking noise when they walk, it is quite loud and can be heard from 10 metres away. This sound originates in the knees. Their hooves adapt to the season, going from being sponge-like to provide traction on the soft, wet tundra, and in the winter the pad shrinks so that the edge of the hoof is exposed and can cut into the ice and snow to prevent them slipping over. 

Their favourite food is lichen but they eat a variety of plants including grasses and mosses. In North America reindeer are also known as Caribou.

They are under threat from hunting and they are also killed for their meat and hides. They have been semi-domesticated in some areas and are even milked and used for transportation.