The name rein (-deer) is of Norse foundation (Ancient Norse hreinn, which again goes back to Proto-Germanic *hrainaz and Proto-Indo-European *kroinos meaning "horned animal"). Danish: rensdyr. Norwegian: rein or reinsdyr. Swedish: ren.
The word deer was originally broader in meaning, but became more specific over time. In Middle English, der (Ancient English dēor) meant a wild animal of any kind. This was in draw a distinction to cattle, which then meant any sort of domestic livestock that was simple to collect and remove from the land, from the thought of personal-property ownership (rather than real estate property) and related to present chattel (property) and capital. Cognates of Ancient English dēor in other dead Germanic languages have the general sense of animal, such as Ancient High German tior, Ancient Norse djúr or dýr, Gothic dius, Ancient Saxon dier, and Ancient Frisian diar.
The reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), also known as caribou in North America, is a species of deer with circumpolar distribution, native to arctic, subarctic, tundra, boreal, and mountainous regions of northern Europe, Siberia, and North America. This includes both sedentary and migratory populations. Rangifer herd size varies greatly in different geographic regions. The Taimyr herd of migrating tundra reindeer (R.t. sibiricus) in Russia is the largest wild reindeer herd in the world.
Rangifer vary in colour and size from the smallest, the Peary caribou, to the largest, the boreal woodland caribou. The North American range of caribou extends from Alaska, through the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, into the boreal forest and south through the Canadian Rockies and the Columbia and Selkirk Mountains. Barren-ground, Porcupine caribou and Peary caribou live in the tundra, while the shy woodland caribou prefers the boreal forest. Two major subspecies in North America, the Porcupine caribou and the barren-ground caribou, form large herds and undertake lengthy seasonal migrations from birthing grounds, to summer and winter feeding grounds in the tundra and taiga. The migrations of Porcupine caribou herds are among the longest of any terrestrial mammal. Barren-ground caribou are also found in Kitaa in Greenland, but the larger herds are in Alaska, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.
While overall widespread and copious, some of its subspecies are rare.
Human dependence on caribou/wild reindeer started in the Middle Pleistocene period. 17 Arctic peoples, such as the Caribou Inuit, the inland-dwelling Inuit of the Kivalliq Region in northern Canada, the Caribou Clan in the Yukon, Inupiat, Inuvialuit, Hän, Northern Tutchone, and the Gwich’in (who followed the Porcupine Caribou for millennia), have depended on them for food, clothing, and shelter. Hunting of wild reindeer and herding of semi-domesticated reindeer (for meat, hides, antlers, milk and transportation) are vital to several Arctic and Subarctic peoples.
The Sami people, (Laplanders), who live in four countries but are one people: 16 have also depended on reindeer herding and fishing for centuries. In Lapland, reindeer pull pulks.
Male and female reindeer can grow antlers annually, although the proportion of females that grow antlers varies greatly linking population and season. Antlers are typically larger on males.
In traditional festive legend, Santa Claus’s reindeer pull a sled through the night sky to help Santa Claus deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve.
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