Are All of Santa's Reindeer Female?
By David Emery
Netlore Archive: Is it true that male reindeer lose their antlers by December, therefore all of Santa's reindeer including Rudolph must be female???
Description: Forwarded email
Circulating since: 2000
Status: Surely false! (see details below)
Email contributed by Teresa R., Dec. 22, 2000:
Subject: Reindeer Facts
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year (the only members of the deer family, Cervidae, to have females do so), male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid December. Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring.
Therefore, according to every historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, every single one of them, from Rudolf to Blitzen ... had to be a female.
We should've known this when they were able to find their way.
Email contributed by Ken H., Nov. 27, 2001:
Subject: FW: Santa's reindeer
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December. Female reindeer, however, retain their antlers until after they give birth in the spring. Therefore, according to every historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, every single one of them, from Rudolph to Blitzen..... had to be a female. We should have known this.... Only women would be able to drag a fat man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night, and not get lost.
Analysis: Well, look. If we're really going to let science be our guide in this matter, the first thing we have to admit is that reindeer don't fly, let alone haul a jolly fat elf around in an airborne sleigh. And if we start down that slippery slope, there's only one conclusion we can possibly reach: Santa Claus doesn't exist. That way lies madness.
But there's a loophole.
It is a fact, reindeer experts say, that both the male and female of the species have antlers. It is also a fact that while most cows retain their antlers until spring, most bulls drop their antlers by early December. Which is worrisome, I know, but the key word is most.
The experts go on to explain that some younger bulls, depending upon hereditary and environmental factors, may keep their antlers well into spring even as late as April.
So it is plausible to suppose that if, for the sake of argument, there were a Santa Claus, and if, for the sake of argument, he did circumnavigate the globe in a reindeer-powered sleigh every December 25th, then at least some of those reindeer including one in particular with a shiny, red nose could be males.
Chalk one up for tradition, if just barely.
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Sources and further reading:
Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association
Rudolph a Girl? Analyzing a Reindeer Problem
National Geographic, 24 December 2001
Santa's Sleigh-Pulling Reindeer, It Turns Out, Are Probably Girls!
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10 December 2003
Slate Magazine, 17 December 1999
Last updated: 11/17/12