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deer Reindeer

Identify It >   Mammal Section >   Reindeer >


Scientific name:  Rangifer tarandus

Size:  Approximately 120cm

Distribution:  One wild herd can be found on the Cairngorm Mountains in Scotland

Months seen:  All year round

Habitat:  In northern Europe reindeer live on arctic tundra and taiga.  They are able to survive closer to the North Pole than any other deer

Food:  Lichen, fungi and vegetation

Special features:  Both male and female reindeer have antlers.

They have a coat of long, grey-brown, hollow hairs, which is underlaid by a coat of softer dense fur, so they are well adapted to cope with cold temperatures.  The coat becomes lighter in colour in winter.


Reindeer have wide, splayed hooves which enable them to spread weight on soft snow to prevent them sinking.  Also the hairs between the hooves grows long to help them grip on ice.

Reindeer probably died out in the UK about 8500 years ago. They were re-introduced to the Cairngorm Mountains in Scotland in 1952 by a reindeer herder called Mikel Utsi, when he brought some of his own reindeer over from Sweden.  The herd, which now numbers around 150 were all born in Scotland.

To arrange a visit to the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre telephone: +44 (0) 1479 861228.

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