(Canadian Press photo)

Rudolph and rest of Santa’s reindeer are all female: scientist

Only female reindeer keep their antlers for the winter

The first written account of Santa Claus having reindeer was in 1821, and since then most people have assumed the reindeer were male — but a scientist says those people would be wrong.

Andrew Hebda, a zoologist at the Nova Scotia Museum, says while both male and female reindeer have antlers, only the females have their antlers during the winter months.

“Being members of the deer family, the males grow their antlers a little bit earlier and just after mating season, which is just about finished now, they drop off. So over a winter you’ll never see a male with antlers,” Hebda said.

Pregnant females use their antlers to dig through the snow in search for food, and lose them just before giving birth, he said.

It’s most likely, he said, that Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen are all female.

“Any reindeer right now with antlers is a girl,” he said.

New focus has been placed on their gender in part because of a New York City Twitter user’s assertion this month they are “a team of strong, powerful, underrated women.”

The tweet, relying entirely on the antler theory of gender, proved very popular — it has garnered more than 680,000 likes and more than 200,000 retweets.

A Chicago Zoological Society blog post echoes the contention that the antlers tell the tale.

“This isn’t to say Santa only had female reindeer, but the nine flyers were girls,” it said.

“Let’s be honest, unlike Santa, reindeer don’t live forever, so Santa needs both male and female reindeer, no? Because boy reindeer don’t give birth to future generations of magical flying reindeer.”

Hebda says there’s another option — castrated male reindeer don’t lose their antlers.

VIDEO: Have you seen Hammy the deer?

“That’s always a possibility. It’s a question of whether Santa has followed a code of practice for proper raising of animals in castration is perhaps up in the air at the moment, but that’s a possibility,” Hebda said.

Hebda said European reindeer are cousins of the North American caribou. There have been some introductions of reindeer into North America — most recently into Newfoundland, he said.

While Hebda can talk about reindeer gender, he’s not prepared to explain how they fly.

And while many children leave milk and cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve, Hebda said that’s not a good choice for the reindeer.

And he said carrots may also be too rich of a treat to leave out for Santa’s reindeer. He suggests lichens, leafy greens and dried mushrooms instead.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Winter night’s delight at festival this Friday

Annual Snowflake Festival at Kinsmen Beach January 18th

Hurtling down the world’s mountains

Invermere’s Ben Thomsen having a stellar ski season

Mountainfilm on Tour returns

Event runs two nights this year, Feb 8-9th

Students lobby for a rainbow crosswalk

Council agrees to proposal for painted crosswalk at 13th Ave. and 13th St. intersection

Home values rise in Columbia Valley

30% rise in Canal Flats; 10% in Invermere

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says

China has called Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ‘politically motivated’

In limbo: Leftover embryos challenge clinics, couples

Some are outright abandoned by people who quit paying storage fees and other couples struggle with tough decisions

BREAKING: Jury finds man accused of killing B.C. girl, 12, guilty

Twelve-year-old Monica Jack disappeared in May 1978 while riding her bike along a highway in Merritt, B.C.

Most Read