For Children of ALL Ages
Story & Photographs By ©Raeanne Rubenstein, 2012
Recently, while visiting Cheekwood Botanical Gardens & Museum of Art in Nashville, TN, I had the very good fortune to not only meet and interview the great man himself, Santa Claus, but I also had a chance to meet a reindeer, in fact- several of them. As it turns out, David Pepper and Jill Swenson from the Santa’s Reindeer Tour presented by Strickland Place were also there that day, horsing -ooops, I mean reindeering- around with Santa. In the course of the visit, I was fortunate enough to not just whisper in Santa’s ear what I might be hoping for this holiday season, but I also found out a lot of super facts about Reindeer from Santa’s legendary Holly and Vixen. And since it is the holiday season, and I am trying to be a good girl (you know why!) I’m going to share what I learned- with you!
Did you know that Reindeer antlers are covered in....velvet? But around October, they’ll start shedding all that velvet off. They’ll scrape it on trees and whatever they have available to shed the velvet off. It works from that point kind of like a tooth. When they shed their velvet, the roots are all the way at the end and it just starts slowly receding until the roots get to where they’re not strong enough to hold the large rack, and they just drop off. No pain, it’s almost like losing a tooth, no pain, no blood, nothing like that. Just a natural process.
When a Reindeer takes a step, you will hear hear a “clicking sound” a little bit. You know the song, “Up on the rooftop, click, click, click”? That’s not their hooves, that’s actually a special tendon in their ankles that makes a reindeer click when they walk. So when they’re in big snow storms, if they can't see their herd, they can hear the click click to keep up and not get lost.. Babies don’t click, until they're about a year old.
Big Feet like Snowshoes:
Reindeers are very built to be in their natural habitat. They’ve got big feet so that when they’re on the snow they spread out, even the back dewclaw, to create a kind of a living snowshoe. It helps them stay on top of the snow, instead of sinking down in it and getting stuck.
Uses for antlers:
Actually, while they can use their antlers in defending their territory or their babies, things like that, most of what they use antlers for is to move the snow away, so that they can get down to the grass when the snow is really deep. A lot of them have an antler that’s very close by their face that will actually be paddle-shaped, which again, kind of helps the Reindeer scoop that snow out of the way so they can eat.
Wild Reindeer and Caribou:
There are managed herds of reindeer in Alaska that are 10,000-20,000 size herds, but they’re all managed. So, in the U.S. there are no wild reindeer. However, in Canada and also Scandinavian countries they do have actual, wild herds of Reindeer. A Reindeer is sort of a Caribou cousin. Reindeer is it’s own classification, but its more like a Caribou cousin. Caribou and Reindeer are the only animals where both the boys and the girls grow antlers.
A typical female (like Holly) weighs about 300-350 lbs. Males (like Vixen) can get up to 500 to 600 lbs, and a little taller. You can’t know the gender just by looking at one. Generally, males have bigger antlers, but females can also have very big antlers. It partly depends on the blood line.
See the Reindeer at Cheekwood, Nashville, TN:
Cheekwood Botanical Garden
& Museum of Art
1200 Forrest Park Drive
Nashville, TN 37205
Cheekwood “Santa Saturdays” - every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas from 10am-2pm.
Cheekwood’s Mission is to preserve Cheekwood as an historical landmark where beauty and excellence in art and horticulture stimulate the mind and nurture the spirit.
See the Santa’s Reindeer Tour presented by Strickland Place, White House, TN:
“We’ve loved sharing our reindeer with everyone so much the last couple of years that we now invite visitors to our farm to meet the entire herd and experience Strickland Place. In order to give everyone a special experience of meeting the reindeer without a large crowd, we have specific tour times for visitors to reserve a time to come and visit.”
“We have a room that we decorate for Christmas and we have tours to the farm for the holiday season. Children get to have their picture made with the reindeer, they’ll get to climb up in an old, antique sleigh, they’ll get to tour an old general store and a toy museum to see toys from decades gone by.”
Santa’s Reindeer Tour presented by Strickland Place
7724 Hwy 76 E, White House, TN.