Photo Friday: Ring in the Holidays with Reindeer on Glaciers

If you’re waiting patiently to hear the “prancing and pawing of each little hoof,” why not take some time to learn a bit about the reindeer (and caribou) that pull the sleigh. In this week’s Photo Friday, let’s take a trip to the glaciers, mountains and tundras that Donner and Blitzen call home.


A reindeer in Tromsø, Norway [Source: Andi Gentsch/Flickr].

First things first, the animals commonly called reindeer in Europe and caribou in North America are the same species, Rangifer tarandus. This species has been around for about a half million years, since the Pleistocene and lives all across the circumpolar north.


Reindeer relaxing on Besseggen, Norway [Source: Espen Faugstad/Flickr].

Reindeer have been domesticated in Europe for thousands of years primarily for their hide and meat, but they’ve also been trained to pull sleighs, and not just for Santa.


A North American caribou looks up from foraging [Source: USGS/David Gustine].

Caribou are particularly well adapted to the cold northern environments, with an incredibly dense coat. Their entire bodies, except the tip of their nose, are covered in a thick wooly underfur and a hollow gaurdhair that keeps them nice and cozy when not delivering presents.


Reindeer digging through snow for food
During the winter, reindeer rely mainly on lichen they find buried beneath the snow [Source: Tristan Ferne/Flickr].
A reindeer poses in front of one of the glaciers in Sarek National Park, Sweden [Source: Kitty Terwolbeck/Flickr].

And I’ll leave you with this BBC Earth video on reindeer migrations.