(Rangifer tarandus)




Facts about this animal

Reindeer are medium-sized deer, with males reaching a head-body length of 185-215 cm , height at shoulder of 68cm, and a body weight of 60-170 kg, occasinally more. Females are slightly smaller and lighter. There are also some subspecies and island forms that are considerably smaller. Domesticated animals are shorter-legged and heavier than their wild counterparts.

Males have rather irregularly branched antlers, sometimes with many, somtimes with only a few points. Females have antlers too, but these are much smaller. The coat has two layers of fur, a dense woolly undercoat and longer-haired overcoat consisting of hollow, air-filled hairs. The colour is very variable, depending of whether the reindeer are wild or domesticated, and whether the habitat is tundra or taiga.

Reindeer walk, trot or gallop, When walking their hooves make a cracking and crunching sound. They are excellent swimmers. They are migratory, although they do not migrate over long distances in europe.


Female reindeer form large herds that are led by an old female. Males are solitary or live in smaller herds. During the rutting season harems are formed.


The rutting season lasts from August to November, depending on location, but peaks usually in October. In May/June the female gives birth to one single calf, rarely twins. The young can stand within minutes after being born. They re weaned at the age of five to six months.Unlike in many other deer species, the reindeer fawn's coat is not marked with camouflaging spots.

Did you know?
that reindeer are the only deer ever tamed and put to use by humans for a variety of purposes, including milk, blood, meat, hide, bones, pulling sleds and riding? The Lapps or Sami of northern Scandinavia keep herds of reindeer. Traditionally these people were nomadic following herds from place to place. Now however, those groups that remain nomadic generally have only the men follow the reindeer herds while women and children stay in a more permanent location. Other groups keep reindeer herds much as cattle have been domesticated and kept.


Name (Scientific) Rangifer tarandus
Name (English) Reindeer
Name (French) Caribou
Name (German) Ren
Name (Spanish) Reno
Local names Finnish: Metsäpeura
Icelandic: Hreindýr
Norwegian, Swedish: Ren
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service



Range Arctic zones of North America and Eurasia
Habitat Arctic tundra and subarctic forest regions
Wild population Approx. 4 millions (Wikipedia 2011)
Zoo population 564 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

Hard antlers should be removed before transport under proper restraint and, where required, sedation. No deer with antlers in velvet at a stage of growth which could be damaged easily should be transported where there is a risk of injury.

For air transport, Container Note 73 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations, should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Joseph N. Hall

Why do zoos keep this animal

Domestic reindeer are kept primarily for educational purposes, because they represent the only deer species which has been domesticated and in which both males and females have antlers. For the European forest reindeer, which has a restricted range, a conservation breeding programme (EEP) is run by European zoos.

Reindeer are particulary popular with children because of the Christmas story "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" about Santa Claus’ ninth and lead reindeer who possesses an unusually red-coloured nose that gives off its own light that is powerful enough to illuminate the team's path through inclement weather.