March 15, 2013 - Reindeer Driving Competition

The Sami are the people who live in the northern portions of Scandinavia, an area that is sometimes called Lapland.

Reindeer are important to the Sami way of life; they use reindeer meat, hides, milk, and antlers, and they use reindeer to pull pulks (sleds) and for general transport. Every year the Sami have to round up their herds to count, sort, slaughter, and mark their reindeer. At the end of the round-up, the town of Inari, Finland, hosts a special competition. Men and women put on their cross-country skis and compete to herd 100 reindeer over a course that is two kilometers (more than three miles) long.

A Reindeer Primer

Did you know that reindeer are caribou, and caribou are reindeer? The two names for the same species reflects the fact that this Arctic and sub-Arctic deer lives in the northern parts of North America, Europe, and Asia. The North American reindeer are called “caribou,” and the Eurasian caribou are called “reindeer.”

In most populations of reindeer/caribou, both males and females grow antlers. Typically, antlers are larger in males, and in some populations females don't have antlers. (Females of all other deer species, including moose, have no antlers at all.)

Like other deer, reindeer/caribou lose their antlers every year and have to grow them back. Antlers are the fastest-growing bones of all the mammals—and they have to grow fast especially for reindeer! Male antlers have to grow up to 40 inches wide and 53 inches long, in just a short time! (That's 100 cm wide and 135 cm long! We're talking more than four feet of bone grown in just a few months!) Reindeer/caribou antlers are the largest of any deer except moose.
Male reindeer also use their antlers to
"fight" for the right to mate with females.

Reindeer/caribou use their antlers to clear away snow so that they can find and eat plants underneath.

To learn more about reindeer/caribou, check out National Geographic Kids

To learn more about the Sami, check out this earlier post.

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