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Can you steer a reindeer?

Have you heard? A Laplander's reindeer are more than just his herd. These semi-tame caribou provide food, milk, clothing, tools, and transportation to the Northern European Lapps. Sometimes they're even racing partners in a sport called ski joring, in which a skier is pulled along behind a speeding reindeer!

Only magic reindeer can fly, but the real animals get around pretty well, too. They're fast runners and powerful swimmers. Like the Lapps, they have to be tough. Living above the Arctic Circle is hard.

In winter, the days are icy cold. The sun shines for only a few hours. Reindeer use their antlers as small snowplows to move the snow aside in search of food. In summer, huge swarms of mosquitoes descend on the herds. A reindeer can lose up to a quart (slightly less than a liter) of blood a week to the mosquitoes. weak animals can even die.

Reindeer are the only type of deer in which the females have antlers, which drop off and regrow every year. In fact, the females keep them longer than the males. Some scientists think that's to help them keep the males from bullying them when food supplies get low in the winter.

Most people these days know reindeer as Santa's sled pullers, but it wasn't until the middle of the 1800s that Santa first harnessed them. Until then, most stories said his sleigh was pulled by a horse or a donkey.

Some pictures from before 1800 even show Santa riding a goat! How's that for having a b-a-a-a-a-d Christmas?
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Publication:U.S. Kids
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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