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Santa's Reindeer: Nifty Swimmers, Snappy Dressers, Says Texas A&M Vet

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Dec. 4, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Santa's nine-reindeer sled might have a hard time passing through airport security, but his team of Rudolph, Prancer and the others are among the most interesting of all animals, says a Texas A&M University veterinarian.

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When it comes to intriguing Christmas critters, reindeer may top the list, says Alice Blue-McLendon, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences who was involved in cloning the world's first deer in 2003.

"They are majestic animals, but also creatures that have totally adapted to their surroundings and environment," she notes.

"For starters, reindeer, which are also known as caribou in North America, are almost always on the move – they are one of the most well-traveled of any animal, and their migration routes can cover 2,000 to 3,000 miles in some parts of the world. It's not unusual for them to travel 35 miles in one day."

Other notable reindeer facts:

  • Both males and females have antlers
  • Reindeer are ruminants and their stomach contains four chambers
  • Male reindeer take their dating seriously – during the three-month mating season that usually runs from September through November, they rarely eat
  • They are unusually quick for their size (up to 700 pounds) and have been clocked running at almost 40 miles per hour
  • Reindeer are excellent swimmers and don't think twice about crossing any stream or even a large lake
  • Their enemies are numerous, and besides being hunted by man, they are attacked by wolves, polar bears, brown bears and wolverines. Even eagles will seek out newborn reindeer

"Since they live in extremely cold areas of the world, reindeer have developed a special way of breathing in which the nasal bones take the inhaled air, it's warmed by the animal's body heat before it enters the lungs, and water is taken in and condensed before it finally exhales," Blue-McLendon explains.

"They also are the original 'dress-in-layers' animal because they have two coats – a coat of fur and a woolly type of undercoat of hairs to keep them warm," she adds. "In the early days of Alaska's history, some mail routes were made with sleds pulled by reindeer, so it's very likely they even delivered some Christmas cards, too."

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SOURCE Texas A&M University

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