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Difference Between Caribou and Reindeer

Caribou vs Reindeer

Caribou and reindeer are often confused animals by people, especially when it comes to referring or discussing them. A proper understand would be beneficial to clear those grey areas about reindeer. However, the main rule is that both these names are used to refer the same animal, but the referred name differs according to place of the world. Since both reindeer and caribou refer to one animal species, this article discusses the characteristics first, and then deals with the difference between the two names. Therefore, information presented here would be interesting for anyone who had any confusion about caribou and reindeer.

Characteristics of Caribou and Reindeer

Reindeer, Rangifer tarandus, aka Caribou, is a medium to large species of deer (Family: Cervidae). They naturally range in the Arctic and Subarctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Reindeer has nine subspecies with variations according to their inhabited geographical regions. However, ecologists identify them according to their inhabited ecosystem and there are two main types known as the tundra reindeer and woodland reindeer. There are six subspecies of the tundra reindeers while the woodland reindeers comprise three subspecies. Reindeer is usually a large animal, but it varies considerably from 90 to 210 kilograms. The height at their shoulders is almost 1.5 metres and the body length averages around two metres. The colour of their fur coat varies among subspecies, as well as individuals. However, the Northern populations have a lighter colouration compared to the Southern populations. Most of the reindeer subspecies have antlers in both males and females. Their antlers are attractive, because of the velvety fur covering those. In addition, they have the largest antlers in relative to the body size among all the members of the deer family. Reindeers are culturally significant animals and they have been instrumental in carrying out certain processes. One key use of them was that reindeers assisted people in transportation by pulling sleds over snow. According to Christian culture, a group of reindeers pull the legendary Santa’s sleigh in the Christmas with gifts.

What is the difference between Caribou and Reindeer?

• As it is mentioned in the start, the two names caribou and reindeer differ according to the place. People of Europe and Asia call them reindeer, but they are known as caribou in North America.

• There are five caribou subspecies (two extinct) in Canadian tundra and American woodlands. In Europe and Asia, there are four subspecies (one extinct) of reindeers.

• The smallest member of them is a reindeer (Svalbard Reindeer, Norway), and the largest subspecies of the species is a caribou (Porcupine Caribou, North America).


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