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Blitzen watching new recruits in training

Because they have hooves, not paws or feet, reindeer are also called "Ungulates", or hooved animals. This is the same name given to pigs, sheep, oxen, and horses. They use the sharp edges of their hooves to scrape snow and thin ice away from the Lichens, very small, flowerless plants which are also called Reindeer Moss. If the ice is thick, due to a very cold and bitter winter, they may not be able to break through to the Lichens and they could starve.

Because their hooves are large, they will spread apart in deep snow to help them walk. When they spread apart, they act like snow shoes. Reindeer also have dewclaws, or toe like structures on the back of the leg, in the area you and I call the heel. Their dewclaws will help support them on the soft soil of the summer Tundra. When the reindeer walk, you can hear a "clicking" sound from their legs and ankles. The clicking is caused by friction in an ankle tendons, or sinews.


Reindeer spend their summers on the Arctic Tundra. This is an area of vast, treeless plains in the Arctic Circle. In the winter they move south, where there are trees and better food can be found. Reindeer are bothered by mosquitoes and large flies, which are very common in the wilderness during late spring and early summer. Since this bothers them, in the late spring and early summer they will find a patch of snow and rest together. Because of the coolness of the snow, the insects will not bother them as much. Just like they do with you and me, the bugs will attack the reindeer and sucks their blood for food. It can get so bad in areas that the animal can actually die from all of the biting and loss of blood.

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