Reindeer are commonly associated with Christmas because of a certain individual that shows up at everyone’s house for a little light breaking and entering and cookie theft. But these animals are more than just once-a-year sleigh pullers. Here are 12 fun facts about reindeer you may not know:

  1. The name “reindeer” is of Norse origin (from the old Norse word “hreinn” for deer) and has nothing to do the reins of a sled.
  2. Both the males and females grow antlers.
  3. Their antlers are like fingerprints – no two are alike.
  4. Some subspecies have knees that make a clicking noise when they walk so the animals can stay together in a blizzard.
  5. Reindeer are the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light. This not only protects their eyes but allows them to better see food or other animals camouflaged in the snow.
  6. Reindeer refers to the domesticated animal, while caribou refers to the wild animal.
  7. Reindeer have 25% more blood vessels in their nose than humans. This helps keep their noses warm. This can turn their nose a light rosy color. So yes – there are red-nosed reindeer.
  8. A Reindeer is ten times bigger than a common dog. (This is a strange way to judge their size, but I saw it and thought it was awesome.)
  9. Reindeer can run up to 50 mph (80 km per hour). Sadly, they cannot fly.
  10. Reindeers do not harm humans intentionally. Sometimes, they can even let you touch them (but attempting to touch a Reindeer is not advisable).
  11. A reindeer’s hoof can adapt to the seasons. During winter, their footpads shrink and tighten exposing the hoof rim so it can cut into ice and snow for traction. In the summer, those pads become sponge-like, ideal for getting around on the soft tundra.
  12. Their eyes change in the summer and winter. As light levels change their eyes go from gold in the summer to blue in the winter.