(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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Saanich police investigating ‘serious collision’ on Pat Bay Highway

Southbound traffic diverted at Haliburton Road intersection

New exhibit at Point Ellice House examines history of waste, water and privilege

Night soil scavengers in the 19th century would collect human waste and dump it around the city

Coastal scenes at the forefront for July shows at Victoria galleries

From sculpture to landscape paintings, summer art is about nature

Salish Sea scavenger hunt turns participants into citizen scientists

Public invited to join the Great Salish Sea BioBlitz

It’s showtime: Victoria theatre reopens with new COVID-19 protocols

Capitol 6 theatre and SilverCity Victoria have reopened with limited seating

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Liberal party finished 2019 having spent $43 million, raised $42 million

All political parties had until midnight June 30 to submit their financial reports for last year

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

White-throated sparrows have changed their tune, B.C. study unveils

Study marks an unprecedented development scientists say has caused them to sit up and take note

Two injured hikers airlifted from North Vancouver Island Park

Campbell River and Comox Search and Rescue hoist team rescued the injured from Cape Scott Provincial Park

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

Most Read