COLLEGE STATION, Texas – You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen? Turns out, they're probably female. In fact, all of the reindeer who pull Santa's sleigh are likely female, according to a Texas A&M University veterinary professor. Yep, that includes the most-famous reindeer of all -- Rudolph.
Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, is an expert on deer.
She says reindeer are the only type of deer in which both males and females grow antlers.
Male reindeer shed their antlers in November, while female reindeer keep theirs through the winter until their calves are born in May.
“So according to the legend, it’s very possible that Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was a female,” Blue-McLendon said in a "Texas A&M Today" article.
Blue-McLendon also shared some other interesting reindeer facts:
- Reindeer are ruminants and their stomachs contain four chambers.
- Reindeer are excellent swimmers and don’t think twice about crossing any stream or even a large lake.
- Male reindeer take their dating seriously: During the three-month mating season that usually runs from September through November, they rarely eat.
- Their enemies are numerous, and besides being hunted by humans, they are attacked by wolves, polar bears, brown bears and wolverines. Even eagles will seek out newborn reindeer.
Blue-McLendon says reindeer have two coats, a coat of fur and a woolly type of undercoat of hairs that keep them warm. They were used to pull mail sleds in the early days of Alaska's history.
"So it’s likely they even delivered some Christmas cards, too,” Blue-McLendon said.