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December 24, 2013

How Santa’s reindeer get the job done

NORMAN — Christmas is many people’s favorite holiday as family and friends come together and celebrate the season. While many of my articles are related to white-tailed deer management I thought I would put a different twist on this one and discuss Santa’s favorite deer; the reindeer. Dr. Glen Selk, Professor for Oklahoma State University also had some interesting thoughts on reindeer I wanted to share.

Have you ever wondered how Santa’s reindeer make that monumental journey on Christmas Eve?  Let’s look into some key facts about reindeer that may help us understand how they get St. Nick to his appointed rounds worldwide. Historians report that reindeer have been domesticated more than 5,000 years.  Since Santa himself is no spring chicken, we can assume they have worked together for quite a while and should have no trouble finding their way around.  Thus, there is no need to worry about them getting lost. 

How about keeping a reindeer well-fed on their busiest day of the year? Well we know reindeer are ruminants like cattle and thus have four compartments in their stomach.  Santa gets them filled up with hay and lichen before he leaves the North Pole, so they should have plenty of feed stored in the four compartments to make it around the globe.  Also, nutritionists know hay digests more slowly than grain, therefore the big meal that reindeer eat before the journey should last even longer.  

As for drinking water that should be no problem.  In their native range water is frozen much of the year so they are used to getting the moisture they need by eating snow.  So as the sleigh is parked on snowy rooftops, reindeer can take on the moisture they need if they get thirsty. 

How do they keep warm while flying around on Christmas Eve?  The reindeer coat like that of white-tailed and mule deer is made of two layers; an outer layer of long guard hairs and an inner layer of dense, wooly fur.  This under layer of fur is thick and can hold plenty of warm air close to their bodies.  The “blanket” of insulation combining fur and air helps keep them warm in even the coldest climates. Thus as they “skate” around our icy rooftops this Christmas Eve, they won’t be feeling the chill. 

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