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Porcupine or Grant's caribou
Rangifer tarandus granti
Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Animalia
Subkingdom Bilateria
Branch Deuterostomia
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Infraphylum Gnathostomata
Class Information
Class Mammalia
Sub-class Theriiformes
Infra-class Holotheria
Order Information
Superorder Preptotheria
Order Artiodactyla
Sub-order Ruminantia
Family Information
Superfamily Cervoidea
Family Cervidae
Sub-family Capreolinae
Tribe Information
Tribe Rangiferini
Genus Information
Genus Rangifer
Species Information
Species R. tarandus
Population statistics
Population 2,890,400 (2015 est.)[1]
Conservation status Vulnerable[2]

The reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) is a species of deer of the family Cervidae, and found in the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia. Reindeer are unique from other species of deer in that both sexes bear antlers. Reindeer are domesticated in Scandinavia by the Sami people, also known as the Lapps, and used for pulling sleds and carriages, as well as providing meat and milk for sustenance. In North America they are known by the name caribou.


The use of the word "reindeer" dates back to the Middle English of the 15th century. Earlier, Old English had the word dēor, which essentially described any wild beast; this was similar to the Old High German word tior[3], or especially to the Old Norse dӯr[4]. These words, first used ca. 800 A.D., would evolve into the familiar word deer, describing that specific wild beast which grew and shed its bony antlers. The Middle English word reindere was first used ca. 1350-1400, with its origin directly coming from the Old Norse hreinndӯr[5][6], and specifically tying it to the familiar reindeer of Scandinavia.

"Caribou" is more recent, having being first used by French Canadians in the mid-to-late 17th century. The word maka-lipi is from the proto-Algonquian language, and literally means "to shovel snow", i.e. the caribou's habit of pawing away the snow with its front hooves to reach grass[7]. The Miꞌkmaq people who also lived in what is now Quebec had a similar word to describe the same animal: γalipu[8]; their interactions with the French Canadians would have their word altered into caribou as early as 1665.


Reindeer are large, with a shoulder height of 33 to 59 inches. Bulls are 71 to 84 inches in length, and weigh 350 to 400 pounds, with some examples considerably larger[9][10]. Females are somewhat smaller, with a length of 64 to 81 inches, and weigh 180 to 260 pounds. The overall size of the animal varies among the subspecies. The body is stout and compact, supported on powerful legs with large, splayed hooves, enabling the animal to have a sure-foot in all seasons[11].

The coat is dense and long, dark gray-brown in color or, especially in domesticated animals, a lighter gray to brown. In winter the coat is generally lighter than in summer. The subspecies R. t. pearyi living on the high Arctic islands of Canada wears an almost pure white coat year round. A dense undercoat combined with a longer, hollow-strand overcoat protects against the cold in the Arctic climate.

The antlers are rod-shaped and widely branched. The shape of the antlers is irregular, asymmetrical and different for each animal; on average the antlers are palmate at each end. Bull antlers are up to 53 inches long with a spread of nearly three feet; females are much smaller, about 17 inches in length[12]. Male animals shed their antlers in autumn, females only in spring.