You may have never noticed this, but pop culture always refers to the eight reindeer flying through the sky on Christmas Eve as male. In many storybooks, and even in the Rudolph movie, the reindeer that pull Santa’s sleigh are all boys! But like many other things in life and nature, it turns out this assumption is incorrect.
Santa’s entire team of flying reindeer are female! That's right: there are no male reindeer in Santa's sleigh at all. You might be wondering why they aren't referred to as females in movies and stories—and nobody knows, really. It might be because the original poems and songs where the reindeer are named refer to them in a masculine sense.
While most people think of deer as being strictly male (because the males grow antlers), there are some species where females also exhibit this trait! Female caribou and elk both produce antlers during the breeding season; however, unlike males who shed their antlers every year after mating season ends, female caribou retain them throughout their lives.
Male reindeer are called “bulls” and they usually shed their antlers after mating season, which is in autumn. Female reindeer are called “cows,” and tend to hold onto their antlers well past Christmastime. That is how we know Santa’s reindeer must be female, because in every illustration they still have antlers at Christmas!
Reindeer are used for transportation in many areas of the world. In Iceland, for example, reindeer are perfect for pulling sleighs through the snow. Reindeer are strong and can pull more weight than other animals such as horses or goats. This is a fun scientific “did you know” to share with the family this Christmas. Next time you see the famous image of Santa's sleigh, think of all the female reindeer pulling it along! It’s time we give them some appreciation.
Photo GettyIt’s time to set the record straight. Santa’s reindeer are female, and they deserve their place in Christmas history. Not only do these strong, hard-working animals pull Santa around the world each year, but they also bring us winter cheer. The science is still out on how they fly, carrying such a heavy load. Some things can only be explained by magic!