Every Christmas I Am Reminded That Reindeer Are Real Animals

Image of a real live set of reindeer via Getty.
Image of a real live set of reindeer via Getty.

It’s true.

I find nothing odd about this and my logic, I believe, is unimpeachable if you allow it to be. Santa’s sleigh is powered (flown? buoyed?) by reindeer. Santa Claus is not real. Ergo, reindeer must not be real. Further, the most popular reindeer on Earth is a fictional outcast with a bulbous crimson snout. Doesn’t exactly help the case for reindeer!


Alright, I kid. Sort of. The real reason I forget that reindeer are real is because when does anyone ever really think about reindeer? Also, I don’t care. For starters, I live in Los Angeles, California and the animal population of icy tundras does not interest me. (Though, to be fair, the subject didn’t interest me when I lived in cities that dipped below 40 degrees either.)

Regular deer do pop into my head occasionally when I remember them running through the backyard of my childhood home or when someone I know hits one with their car. There’s also the unfortunate fact that the reindeer population is shrinking which certainly doesn’t help.

The most puzzling part of all this is that here in North America, apparently, we call reindeer “caribou”. If you called me up on June 27th and asked if I thought caribou were real animals, I would probably say yes and then start craving a nice tall tumbler of chilled Caribou Lou because of the word association.

Perhaps reindeer should work on their marketing strategy if they’d like to be remembered by me!

Still, every year like clockwork, something jogs my memory. Perhaps some rich asshole has flown out a bunch of reindeer to give his girlfriend a magical bullshit Christmas proposal. Maybe a week after Thanksgiving, The Today Show pulls some stunt to kick off the Christmas season and Christmas spending on GE products and they fly out some reindeer and a Santa and have him hand out coupons for 20 percent off a stainless steal dishwasher. Something like that happens and a light goes off: Oh yeah, those lil fuckers are real. Reindeer are real animals. Ha. Ha.

So here I am. I, in this moment, understand that reindeer actually exist and reside in areas of the world in which I hope to never step foot: Russia, parts of Canada that aren’t Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, Greenland. This is my truth—until New Year’s Day when I will inevitably forget that reindeer are not, in fact, fictional beasts crafted to aid the fairly unbelievable narrative of a fat man flying through the sky on a giant sled.

Senior Writer, Jezebel



Caribou/reindeer are one of my all time favorite animals. I even have a caribou track tattoo that goes up my back and over my shoulder.

Fun facts:

The caribou has the longest land migration of any mammal.

Scientists aren’t really settled on how to categorize the different types of caribou. Current consensus is that they’re probably all the same species (including the European ones that are called reindeer). But you’ll find differing opinions on sub-species classifications (woodland, barren ground, etc.).

They are the only deer species in which both males and females grow antlers. And...during Christmas time, the males have generally shed their antlers for the season while the females still have theirs. You could, therefore, argue that Santa’s team is entirely girl reindeer (or you could say that since they’re magical reindeer the normal rules don’t apply).

They are the only deer species to have been successfully domesticated and used as working animals (vs. only a food source).

In Canada, you may legally keep animals of the European type reindeer stock, but you may not raise/breed North American caribou (zoos are exempt from this restriction).

A few years ago one of the Calgary Zoo’s reindeer gave birth to twins. Caribou twins are pretty rare, and it’s almost never that both calves survive in the wild because Caribou don’t have access to enough food to produce enough milk to sustain two calves.

The Canadian quarter features a caribou on the tails side.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I have any problem with this funny post about reindeer. I’m just a nerd that got excited to talk about one of my favorite topics.