(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

Just Posted

The River Forecast Centre is maintaining a flood watch for the area, including the Bella Coola River and tributaries, Kingcome River, Owikeeno-Rivers Inlet, and surrounding areas.
Wuikinuxv under evacuation order, more rain in forecast

Bella Coola’s Hill has re-opened but road conditions are muddy and wet

One person was killed in a two-vehicle crash south of Williams Lake on Highway 97 Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. (Photo submitted)
Highway 97 crash south of Williams Lake claims one life

Road conditions at the time were slippery and covered with slush: RCMP

Highway 20 is closed from the top Avalanche gate to the bottom Avalanche gate as of 19:30 on Tuesday October 27, 2020 (WL Tribune photo)
Rockslide closes the Hill as rain pours down in Bella Coola

Bad weather has resulted in rockfall on the Hill on Highway 20

The River Forecast Centre is issuing a Flood Watch for the Central Coast including Bella Coola River (file photo)
Flood watch issued for Bella Coola River

The River Forecast Centre is issuing a Flood Watch for the Bella Coola River

Two of the three grizzly cubs that were relocated to Smithers after their mother was killed (Caitlin Thompson photo)
Bella Coola residents urged to secure attractants after two sow grizzlies killed

One sow was a mother to three cubs of the year, which have been transported to Smithers

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as fake Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Commissioner Austin Cullen looks at documents before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
RCMP lacked dedicated team to investigate illegal activities at casino, inquiry hears

Hearings for the inquiry are set to continue into next week and the inquiry is expected to wrap up next year

Most Read