The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Armadillo
Story Of The Lynx
Story Of The Elephant
Story Of The Leopard
Story Of The Reindeer
Story Of The Coyote
Story Of The Wild Sheep
Story Of The Mungoose
Story Of The Zebra
Story Of The Yak
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Story Of The Reindeer
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The most enjoyable sleigh ride I ever took was behind a pair of reindeer. After that trip of nearly four hundred miles I could readily understand why Santa Claus selected the reindeer to carry him on his annual gift-making tour. The reindeer is a rapid, sure-footed traveler, and is guided as easily as one would guide a well-trained horse.
My companion on this trip was a Laplander, or a Lap, as we commonly call the inhabitants of Lapland. He was a well-to-do little fellow who lived in comfort, for he had a large herd of reindeer. The wealth of a Lap does not depend on the amount of money or land in his possession, but upon the number of deer he owns. If he owns from four to six hundred head he is rich; from two hundred to three hundred he is in comfortable circumstances; if he possesses only one hundred he leads a hand-to-mouth existence; if he has but fifty head, he is obliged to join his animals with the herd of a richer man in order to make a living. The reindeer serves the Lap as a beast of burden and supplies him with food and clothing.
From the nature of the country it inhabits, the reindeer is compelled to lead a migratory life, in which the natives, who have to depend entirely for their subsistence on the animal, have to participate. Troops of them during the winter months reside in the woods, feeding on the lichens that hang from the boughs of the trees, as well as on those that grow upon the ground beneath. In the- spring they repair to the mountains in order to escape the swarms of stinging gnats and gad-flies which infest the air, and inflict wounds in the skin of great severity. In the fall they return to the forests.
I have witnessed several of these migrations of the undomesticated rein-deer. On one occasion, in Eastern Siberia, two large migrating bodies of reindeer passed at no great distance. They were descending the hills from the northwest, and crossing the plain on their way to the forests, where they spend the winter. Both bodies of (leer extended farther than the eye could reach, and formed a compact mass narrowing to the front. They moved slowly and majestically along, their broad antlers resembling a moving wood of leafless trees. Each body was led by a deer of unusual size, which my guides assured me was always a female.
The reindeer is distinguished from all other members of the deer family by the fact that both sexes have antlers which grow out of the top of the head instead of the forehead. The muzzle of the reindeer differs from that of all the deer hitherto mentioned in being clothed with soft hairs of moderate length. The neck has no distinct mane, but the throat is fringed with long and rather stiff hair. The ears are smaller than in any other deer, and thickly covered on both sides with hair. The hair clothing the body is from an inch to an inch and a half in length, and is somewhat crimped or waved, while beneath this is a coat of woolly under-fur. The general color of the reindeer is brownish-gray, with the face, neck and throat whitish, and the nose, ears and limbs brown. There are, however, great individual variations as regards color, some specimens being nearly or quite white throughout. In general the tail is white, with a tinge of brown at the root and on the upper surface; and there is a distinct white ring around each fetlock.
The various races of reindeer differ considerably from one another in respect of height; but the bucks of the larger American variety stand about 4 1/2 feet at the withers, and usually weigh some 350 pounds, although unusually fine specimens may reach nearly 400 pounds. In regard to the length of the antlers, it appears that fine examples vary from 48 to over 57 inches, although one pair is known in which the length reaches to upwards of 6o inches. There is great variation in regard to the span of antlers and the number of points they carry, while it is not unfrequently the case that the longest specimens have by no means the greatest girth.
At the present day reindeer are unknown in the Old World below the southern shore of the Baltic; it appears, however, that in the time of Caesar they were met with in the Black Forest of Northern Germany, although whether as permanent residents or as winter immigrants, cannot, of course, be now ascertained. In the British Isles, remains of reindeer are commonly met with in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and it was long considered that in Caithness this deer survived till the middle of the twelfth century, although the latest reseaches tend to disprove this idea. Reindeer remains are also found over the Continent, as far south as the valleys of the Dordogne and Garonne in France.
Reindeer inhabit the northern regions of both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, and there is but a single species.