Reindeer: have sweet tooth, easy to handle, will travel

Dec 23, 2005
Reindeer: have sweet tooth, easy to handle, will travel
Image: Genuine Christmas reindeer, like these two females don’t mind a sugar hit. Photo: Gordon Dryden

Children who leave sweet treats out for Santa and his reindeer this Christmas are not too far off the culinary mark for a reindeer's dietary requirements.
University of Queensland deer expert Dr Gordon Dryden said reindeer were fussy eaters and preferred sweet grasses over the finest hay.

“They seem to have a requirement for a rather low fibre, high soluble sugar feed even though they are animals that graze,” Dr Dryden said.

Dr Dryden, a Senior Lecturer in Animal Nutrition from UQ's School of Animal Studies, said another reindeer delicacy was a spongey grey moss from Norway.

Luckily, most reindeer prefer to dine early evening which is handy for all the children who will leave out cookies, chocolate and lollies on Saturday night.

“The animals in our Finland study tended to graze in the early evening and spend a lot of the rest of the time just lying down and not doing much.”

Dr Dryden said most reindeer were about 1.3 metres tall and weighed about 60 kilograms.

“The real Arctic reindeer look a bit funny with their short legs and big noses - just like Rudolph!”

He said Australia was mostly too hot for reindeer as temperatures of 20 degrees could cause heat stress.

Dr Dryden has studied the behaviours and eating habits of reindeer in Finland and Norway.

Collaborating with Nordic researchers, he has shown how reindeer slow down as the northern winter approaches.

He said reindeer females and fawns were active in summer, but spent less time grazing as winter set in. The fawns were more active and played a lot.

As far as the strength and flying abilities of Santa's reindeer Donder, Cupid, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Comet, Blitzen, Vixen and Rudolph, Dr Dryden said female reindeer stockpile energy, especially when pregnant, so that they can survive the long Arctic winters.

Some of Santa's reindeer team could be females because reindeer are the only deer species where the females have antlers.

Reindeer herders in Scandinavia catch their animals with lassoes. Dr. Dryden's team used the same method to catch reindeer in paddocks on abandoned coastal farms in northern Norway.

“Reindeers are quite easy to handle actually. When we worked in the research station on the mainland they were almost like sheep,” he said.

Dr Dryden said there were hundreds of thousands of reindeer throughout the Arctic in Canada, Scandinavia and Russia.

Next year he hopes to publish his latest reindeer behaviour research in collaboration with a Finnish researcher in the international reindeer journal Rangifer.

Source: University of Queensland

Explore further: Bitter coffee today? Try changing the colour of your cup

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

LiquidPiston unveils quiet X Mini engine prototype

1 hour ago

LiquidPiston has a new X Mini engine which is a small 70 cubic centimeter gasoline powered "prototype. This is a quiet, four-stroke engine with near-zero vibration. The company said it can bring improvements ...

Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

1 hour ago

The exclusive club of explorers who have discovered a rare new species of life isn't restricted to globetrotters traveling to remote locations like the Amazon rainforests, Madagascar or the woodlands of the ...

New terahertz device could strengthen security

1 hour ago

We are all familiar with the hassles that accompany air travel. We shuffle through long lines, remove our shoes, and carry liquids in regulation-sized tubes. And even after all the effort, we still wonder if these procedures ...

European space plane set for February launch

1 hour ago

Europe's first-ever "space plane" will be launched on February 11 next year, rocket firm Arianespace said Friday after a three-month delay to fine-tune the mission flight plan.

Recommended for you

Bitter coffee today? Try changing the colour of your cup

35 minutes ago

In Australia, around a billion cups of coffee a year are consumed in cafés, restaurants and other outlets. Even Britain, a nation famous for its fondness for tea, has in recent years seen a dramatic ris ...

Recreating clothes from the Iron Age

2 hours ago

A few years ago, the oldest known piece of clothing ever discovered in Norway, a tunic dating from the Iron Age, was found on a glacier in Breheimen. Now about to be reconstructed using Iron Age textile techniques, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.