Difference Between Deer and Reindeer

Deer vs Reindeer

Both deer and reindeer are popular ungulates, or in other words, hoofed mammals with even numbered toes. These important mammals are herbivorous and live in herds. There are noticeable differences between these two, especially in geographical distribution, diversity, and physical characteristics. It would be important to have a particular look at their characteristics separately and then to understand the differences, as in this article.


Deer are a group of many species with several genera including Muntiacus, Elaphodus, Dama, Axis, Rucervus, Cervus, and few more. They naturally range in all the continents except Australia and Antarctica. Their bodyweights vary in a broad spectrum, which is from 10 to 250 kilograms. They feed on a herbivorous diet, and they are usually browsers. Moreover, deer can select their feed in such a way that it will be more nutritious. Deer are ruminants, i.e. they have a four-chambered stomach to let the food go through a thorough process of digestion and absorption of nutrients. They live in herds and browse together, which is an adaptation to be protected from their predators; one can watch out for the predators while others are browsing, and this way they will know when there is a predator around. Deer usually reproduce at a very high rate, and only the mother provides parental care for the fawns. Most of the deer antlers are long, forked, curved, and pointed. These are very important in fighting and show-off features of males. Deer are useful in many human activities including in game and meat hunting, indigenous medicine, and farming.


Reindeer, Rangifer tarandus, aka Caribou in North America, is a deer species live in Arctic and Subarctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Reindeer has several subspecies with variations according to their inhabited geographical regions. However, there are two major types of them depending on the ecosystem they inhabit, tundra reindeer (six subspecies) and woodland reindeer (three subspecies). Reindeer is usually a large animal, but it varies considerably, from 90 – 210 kilograms. Height at their shoulders is almost 1.5 metres, and the body length averages around two metres. Their fur colour varies among subspecies, as well as individuals, but Northern populations have lighter and Southern populations are darker comparatively. Most of the reindeer subspecies have antlers in both males and females. Their antlers are interesting, because of the velvety fur covering those. Moreover, reindeer have the largest antlers compared to body size among all the members of the deer family. There is a close association of reindeers with humans, as they have assisted in transportation for people by pulling sleds over snow. In addition, according to Christian culture, a group of reindeers pull the legendary Santa’s sleigh.

What is the difference between Deer and Reindeer?

· Deer are a group of Cervidae animals including more than 60 extant species, while reindeer is one of those species. However, there are about nine subspecies of reindeers.

· Deer have a worldwide distribution except Australia and Antarctica, but reindeer is restricted to arctic and subarctic regions of North America, Europe, and Asia.

· Deer include small to large sized animals, while reindeer is always medium to large in their physique.

· Females of many deer species do not have antlers, but most of the reindeer subspecies have antlers in both sexes.

· The ratio of antlers to body size is higher in reindeer compared to all the other members of the deer family.

· Body colouration varies in within individuals of reindeers, whereas it does not change much within individuals of one species of deer.