Deer vs. Reindeer

Deer vs. Reindeer

Deer is any member of the family Cervidae which includes around 90 different species of hoofed mammals. They can be found on all continents except in Australia and on the Antarctica. Reindeer, also known as caribou, is a species of deer. There are more than 10 subspecies of reindeer that inhabit circumpolar and polar parts of Europe, Asia and North America. Both deer and reindeer are herbivores and social animals that live in herds. Despite similar morphology and lifestyle, they can be easily differentiated thanks to the following features:


Deer can be found in various types of forests (temperate forests, tropical rainforests or deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests), savannas and meadows. Deer have thin legs with pointed hooves which are not well suited for life in very cold regions. Reindeer inhabits boreal forests and tundra. It moves across the snow and ice with ease thanks to its wide, split hooves.


Northern pudu is the smallest species of deer that weighs only 20 pounds, while moose, the largest type of deer, can reach nearly 1000 pounds of weight. Reindeer is medium to large deer that can reach 180 to 401 (rarely up to 701) pounds of weight.

Color and Density of Fur

Reindeer has very thick fur whose color depends on the season, habitat and geographic distribution. Northern populations of reindeer have lighter-colored fur compared with southern populations of reindeer. Deer have less dense fur compared with reindeer and its color is the same in all areas (color of the fur doesn't change with geographic location).


Unlike other species of deer, reindeer has special turbinate bones in the nasal cavity whose main purpose is to warm the cold air which it inhales.


Both male and female reindeer have antlers, while only male deer have antlers. Reindeer have very large antlers (relative to the body size) with upper and lower points (of antlers) organized in two separate groups. Deer have long, forked and pointed antlers which are used in ritual fights and to attract attention of females (deer with large antlers are stronger and healthier than deer with small, asymmetrical antlers).


Reindeer usually consumes lichens, moss, leaves of willow and birch and mushroom. During the periods of food scarcity, small rodents, eggs and fish are also on the menu. Deer usually eat twigs, leaves, grass, fruit and lichens.

Association with Humans

Deer are wild animals that cannot be domesticated. They are often on a target of hunters because of their meat and antlers, which are popular among trophy collectors. Reindeer can be domesticated and used to pull sleds and carry heavy load and people. It also represents important source of milk, fur and meat on the farms. Reindeer is very popular during the Christmas because of its association with Santa.

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