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Differences Between Caribou and Reindeer

Caribou and reindeer are similar animals, which share a significant number of similarities. One of the main similarity between caribou and reindeer are classified in the same genus and species, Rangifer and tarandus respectively. In addition, the two animals have similar adaptation characteristics, which make them to survive in various regions and to overcome the harsh winter seasons. However, it is worth noting that there is significant number of differences between caribou and reindeer as discussed below.

Differences Between Caribou and Reindeer

  • What is a Caribou?

A caribou is a North American species of a deer, which can attribute its originality and present habitat to the native arctic and mountainous regions. Some of the specific countries where the animal originated and presently found include the northern Europe countries, Siberia, and North America among others.

Differences Between Caribou and Reindeer-1

  • What is a Reindeer?

A reindeer is a domesticated caribou that is found in the Polar Regions and the northern European and American countries. The animal is adaptable to different weather conditions and seasons, which explain why it is found in abundance in the artic and Polar Regions, which experience harsh winter conditions.

Differences Between Caribou and Reindeer

  1. Domestication of Caribou and Reindeer

Domestication is one of the primary difference between a caribou and the reindeer. Reindeer are domesticated while a caribou is a wild animal, which has not been domesticated despite having similar physical and temperament qualities with its close cousin, reindeer. Currently, many arctic people herd reindeers while at the same time depending on the animal for other economic purposes. It is important to highlight that the reindeer are domesticated for food, clothing, and shelter. Moreover, other people have been known to herd reindeers as pests. Some of the regions where the reindeer are domesticated include Asia, Europe, Scandinavia, and other regions in Russia. It is important to highlight that caribou is not domesticated but is used by human beings as food.

  1. Breeding Season of Caribou and Reindeer

The other difference between the two animals is that they have a different breeding season despite their significant number of similarities and the fact that they belong to the same genus and species. It is believed that reindeer start their breeding seasons four months earlier than caribou. Reindeer calves are generally born at the end of April while the caribou calves are born four months later, probably the end of August. The early breeding of reindeer is attributed to the fact that they live in better conditions due to their domestication hence making them breed early as compared to their counterparts who live in harsh weather conditions hence slowing their breeding cycle.

  1. Sizes of Caribou and Reindeer

The size of reindeer and that of caribou is a distinguishing aspect between the two animals. On an average assessment, the size of the reindeer is significantly larger as compared to the size of the caribou. It is important to highlight that reindeer are exposed to better living conditions where they access quality food throughout the season and warmth during the winter season. In addition, their owners when sick treat reindeer. Caribous do not access the benefits accorded to the reindeer, which makes them have stunted growth while at the same time being exposed to unhealthy conditions, which results in smaller sizes. However, it is worth noting that there exist some instances where the reindeer bulls are smaller than the caribou bulls. It is worth noting that, in the worst-case scenario, the size and weight of both reindeer and caribou will be the same.

  1. Migration of Caribou and Reindeer

The other difference between caribou and reindeer is the range at which the two animals travel or migrate in search of pasture and water. It is important to highlight that caribou, which is wild, travels constantly from one region to another in search of pasture as compared to the domesticated reindeer which only covers shorter distances because it is herded while at the same time being provided with food by their owners. Caribou is known to travel more than 3,000 miles every year in an attempt to allow the slow-growing lichen has a chance to recover after extended periods of feeding. It also important to highlight that caribou travel during the winter into the forested areas where they forage on the moss beneath the snow.

  1. Thickness of the Fur in Caribou and Reindeer

The other difference between the reindeer and caribou is that they exhibit different physical properties on their fur. In a closer look, one will see that reindeer have a thicker fur which is mostly denser. This contrasts what one will see on a closer look to the caribou which has a thin fur which is moderately dense. The difference in the adaption of the two animals with respect to the fur is the fact that caribou can move from one place to another as a response to the changing weather conditions. However, the reindeer are domesticated which means that it is not given much freedom to move from one place to another as a response to the changing climatic conditions. However, it is important to highlight that the two animals have enough hairs and specific adaptations that keep them warm during the winter seasons.

Table Showing Differences Between Caribou and Reindeer : Comparison Chart

  Caribou Reindeer
Domestication It is not Domesticated It is Domesticated
Fur Thin and Moderate Dense Fur Thick and Dense Fur
Migration Migrates Every Year Up to 3000 miles Migrates for shorter Distances
Sizes Medium in Size Large in Size
Breeding Season Four Months Later, Calving In Late August Four Months Earlier, Calving In April

Summary of Caribou and Reindeer

  • From the above analysis, it is clear that caribou and reindeer have a significant number of similarities. However, it is important to highlight that the two animals are not the same but they have some significant number of contrasting properties.
  • Domestication of the reindeer offers them an opportunity to experience the warmth and better living conditions as compared to their counterparts, which enhances their breeding capability and overall health status.
  • Lastly, it is important to highlight that the populations of the two animals have been decreasing due to the changing climatic conditions and overall deforestation brought about by road and rail construction which interferes with their surroundings.

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  1. Hi I don’t actually want you to post this on your page… just found the comments about the size of reindeer vs. caribou confusing. Caribou are generally larger than reindeer and have longer legs, with reindeer being shorter and rounder/stouter.

  2. I am confused at the sentence in #1 that states “…other people have been known to herd reindeers as pests.” Do you really mean pests?! Or do you mean pets? They are very different things.

    P.S. Isn’t the plural of reindeer “reindeer” – no s on the end?

  3. Youve got the traits backwards. Bou are the larger, stronger , more dense fur w larger antlers. Reindeer are domesticated smaller animals. Think about it ; if wild bou had their young in wild in August they would never survive the winter. Domesticated, human husbandry reindeer young will survive in their protected micro environment. This was obviously written by someone from metropolitan area who has never seen wild caribou herd. Mountain caribou usually run in small cliques of 1-5 . Please do your research more thoroughly before writing public atticles

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References :

[0]Skogland, Terje. "The effects of food and maternal conditions on fetal growth and size in wild reindeer." Rangifer 4.2 (1984): 39-46.

[1]McEwan, E. H., and P. E. Whitehead. "Measurement of the milk intake of reindeer and caribou calves using tritiated water." Canadian Journal of Zoology 49.4 (1971): 443-447.

[2]White, Robert G., and Jeanette Trudell. "Habitat preference and forage consumption by reindeer and caribou near Atkasook, Alaska." Arctic and Alpine Research (1980): 511-529.

[3]"Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Caribou.jpg"

[4]"Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20070818-0001-strolling_reindeer.jpg"

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