Caribou (Rangifer tarandus)
The caribou is in the order of Artioldactyl and is a member of the deer family. It looks like a large mule deer or small elk with soft hollow hair, long legs,
large hooves and large antlers. In Alaska, 97 to 99 percent of the females have antlers as well as the males. Both male and female caribou have blunt muzzles with hair all the way down to the muzzle.Although the caribou looks like a deer, they are different from other members of their family in many ways. They are not too shy (unless in common hunting area), they are capable of sleeping in water, and are herd animals that are always on the move. This tamable animal likes to eat moss and lay in the shade, but they hate the nasty flies that bite them, and lay their eggs in their back. The flies are one reason the caribou is always on the move, the other reason is that caribou eat moss called lichen (lie-Ken) that takes years to grow back.

Characteristics and Physical Features of the Caribou

Size: 4-5 ft.
Weight: 500+ lb.
Color: Greyish, and brown with white on the neck and back areas.

Distinguishing Characteristics: 3 ft. antlers.

Breeding: They breed in the fall.

Range: Throughout the arctic tundra of Russia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland.

Diet: Moss and lichen.

What is the relationship between reindeer and caribou?

Caribou are wild, if they are domesticated they are called reindeer. Eurasians do not use the name caribou at all, they use the terms wild and domestic reindeer. Arctic people hunt caribou for the good meat and warm hide so they have names for caribou to specify age and gender; three of them are pagnnig (adult bull), julanak (adult female) and norraq (calf).
Why does the caribou shovel snow in the winter?

The caribou eats food under the snow, to get at it the caribou must shovel the snow. He nods his head and shoves snow out of the way like a horse would.
How do the does the caribou get two meals for one price?

When the caribou eats, the food goes down to the caribou’s first stomach, where it is mashed into small balls called cud and stored to eat at the caribou’s next meal.
When did a warm coat cause the caribou to become endangered?

The caribou has a very warm very soft fur that is hollow, insulated, and sheds water and snow. This valuable fur was traded for a lot of money in the 1800’s. The caribou population kept dropping because of overhunting until laws were passed to protect it.
Why do caribou fight?

In the fall when caribou gather in together the herd must be lead by one caribou so they fight for the lead position.
Is a broken antler a serious problem?

Yes. But only between April and August in the “velvet stage” when the antlers are velvety. When the antler is broken it loses blood flow to the antler and velvet.
What consequence can come to the caribou from fighting?

The caribou can get cut and bruised. The worse consequence is it’s horns can lock and the caribou not be able to unlock their horns so they will starve.caribou_2.jpg (6449 bytes)
Can you bullfight with a caribou?

Yes. Even though the caribou is color blind, the caribou will follow the movements and charge the flag (But please don’t try this!).
How are caribou like sheep?

The Laplanders herd the caribou so that they can have the tender caribou meat and warm hide. The hide is often made into blankets, clothing and shelter. They use the antlers and bones for toys, tools and weapons.
What prevents a caribou from freezing in the winter?

Caribou eat large quantities of food to increase their internal heat production. Also to conserve heat the caribou has hollow hairs rooted in a thick layer of fat. They also prevent heat loss from their thin, long legs by having two circulation systems. The circulation through the legs is up to 50 degrees colder than the circulation system for the rest of their body.