(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

Expanded opportunities at recycling depots

New items not included in curbside pick-up programs to be accepted

Update: Shuswap wildfires now under control or contained

Three fires reported overnight in Silver Creek, Logan Creek and Mt. Ida

Coldstream standoff suspect enters five guilty pleas

Accused man pleads guilty to five more counts from February standoff with police.

Salmon Arm Rotary Club contributes to new Blackburn Park picnic shelter

Construction is expected to start soon on structure replacing one removed in 2015

Big summer plans for Big White

A new season has dawned at Big White

What’s happening

Follow Social Squad memeber Matthew Abrey to find out what’s happeing this weekend

Vancouver Canucks tab Quinn Hughes with No. 7 overall pick in NHL draft

University of Michigan standout was second defenceman picked in first round

Gun, drugs and cash seized in arrest of alleged B.C. fentanyl dealer

Vancouver Island man Brent Connors is facing nine charges in relation to investigation

Jogger spent two weeks in U.S. detention centre after accidentally crossing B.C. border

Cedella Roman, 19, crossed the border while out for a run

PHOTOS: Police rescue baby seal found on rocky B.C. shoreline

Marina Mammal Rescue Centre recommends residents observe from a distance

B.C. woman with severely disabled son keeps getting parking tickets

‘There has to be something they could do’

‘Creep off’ reporting system aims to track street harassment in Metro Vancouver

Text-based hotline launches to collect public reports on where and when harassment occurs

Abbigail May named Volunteer of the Year

Recognition given by national cross-country ski association for her extraordinary efforts.

Updated: Weather office says more thunder and strong winds possible Friday afternoon, evening

Environment Canada says winds could gust at up to 70 kilometres per hour

Most Read