Difference Between Elk and Reindeer

Elk vs Reindeer

Elk and Reindeer are large bodied deer species with some noticeable differences between them. Their bodyweight, height, antlers, and some other physical characteristics are important to notice in exploring the differences between them. This article summarizes the most important characteristics of these two and emphasizes the differences between them.


Elk, Cervus Canadensis, are also known as Wapiti, and it is an even-toed ungulate with an enormous body. In fact, elk is the second largest among all the deer species. Their height measures more than 2.5 metres at the withers. Male elks or stags grow larger than females with a bodyweight that reaches almost 480 kilograms. However, their females or hinds weigh almost 300 kilograms. They live in forests as well as the habitats along the edges of the forests. They have shaggy necks and manes, which are important to consider in identifying. Elks change their colour and thickness of the coat depending on the climate; coat is lightly coloured and thick in winter, and tanned and short in summer. Their neck is dark and the rump is white in colour. They are social animals living in matriarchal herds as in elephants. During their mating period, stags produce repeated high-pitched characteristic vocalizations to attract hinds. In addition, males have widely branching antlers with those are in the dendritic configuration. However, they shed their antlers annually after each mating and regrow for the next season. The regrowing rate is as high as over 2 centimetres a day. A healthy elk lives about 15 years in wild and much more in captivity.


Reindeer, Rangifer tarandus, are known as Caribou in North America. It is an important deer species living in the Arctic and Subarctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Reindeer has several subspecies with variations depending on the geographical localities. However, there are two major types of reindeer depending on the ecosystem that they inhabit known as Tundra reindeer (six subspecies) and Woodland reindeer (three subspecies). They are usually large animals, but their bodyweights could vary considerably from 90 – 210 kilograms. The average height at their withers is almost 1.5 metres and the body length averages around two metres. Their fur colour varies among subspecies as well as within individuals. Generally, the Northern populations have lighter and Southern populations are darker in colour 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 the legends, a group of reindeers pull Santa’s sleigh on the Christmas day with presents.

What is the difference between Elk and Reindeer?

· Geographical distribution of elk is a restricted one in Western North America and Central Eastern Asia. However, reindeer mostly inhabit the colder climates of Arctic and Subarctic regions of Asia, Europe, and North America.

· Elk is much heavier and larger compared to reindeer.

· Both male and female reindeer have antlers, but only male elks have those.

· Reindeer have the larger antlers relative to body size compared with not only elk, but also with all the deer species.

· Reindeer antlers are covered with a velvety fur but not in elks.

· Reindeer has a closer association with humans compared to elk.