Every Tuesday we'll share a few fun animal facts with you from experts all over the country.

Today we’re focusing on the animal that helps Santa deliver all those Christmas presents: the reindeer. Our reindeer facts come from the San Diego Zoo.

  • Reindeer and caribou are classified as the same species, but caribou are slightly larger — and the reindeer has been domesticated for at least 3,000 years. They are used by humans to carry packs or pull sleds.
  • Aside from the eight who reside at the North Pole, reindeer live in Canada and Alaska, northern Europe and northern Asia.
  • Reindeer are the only deer species in which both the males and females grow antlers. In males, those iconic antlers can measure up to 51 inches, while in females the can reach 20 inches. Their antlers, which can weigh up to 33 pounds, fall off and grow back larger each year. Males drop their antlers in November (so they don’t have them on Christmas Eve!), and females keep theirs until their calves are born in May.
  • They have hollow guard hairs, which hold in body heat and helps them float in the water. They can swim about four to six miles per hour. Their coat is brownish in warmer weather and turns more whitish in the winter.
  • With a life span of up to 20 years, reindeer can be up to 7 feet long and males can weigh up to 700 pounds. Females can weigh in at up to 370 pounds.
  • The deer have specialized noses that warm cold air before it enters the lungs. Its sense of smell helps the reindeer find food hidden under snow, and recognize danger and direction.
  • While Santa only has eight in his fleet, this social species forms regional herds of 50,000 to 500,000 animals during the spring.