Reindeer, a species of deer known for their impressive horns, can be found across Asia, Europe, and North America. These fascinating animals are part of the Cervidae family, which includes all hoofed mammals such as deer and reindeer. Adapting to a wide range of environments, reindeer are versatile creatures that share many characteristics with their deer relatives.

One notable distinction between deer and reindeer is their preference for climate. While deer generally favor milder climates, reindeer are quite comfortable in wintry conditions. Additionally, although antlers are typically exclusive to male deer, reindeer present a unique exception to this rule, with both males and females sporting their own magnificent set of antlers. No matter the differences, the fascinating and diverse world of deer and reindeer continues to captivate people all around the globe.

Reindeer vs Deer Comparison

Reindeer, the second largest species of deer, with 10 subspecies, mostly inhabit circumpolar regions of Europe, North America, and Asia. The entire deer family covers approximately 43 species found everywhere except Antarctica.

Reindeer are adapted to colder habitats like the tundra and boreal woods, while deer prefer moderate climates such as meadows and woodlands. The physical build of reindeer includes lengthy, stumpy legs with split, wide hooves and a weight range of 180-400 pounds. Deer, on the other hand, have long, slender legs, pointed hooves, and a wider weight range from 20 to 1000 pounds.

Fur characteristics differ as well, with reindeer boasting dense fur, its color varying based on habitat, while deer exhibit softer fur, with color variations depending on the species. Interestingly, both male and female reindeer grow antlers, which are large for their body size, while only male deer have long, forked, pointy antlers.

In terms of diet, reindeer consume tree leaves, twigs, eggs, fish, lichen, moss, and berries, while deer primarily eat twigs, berries, grass, and leaves. Reindeer are hunted by humans and bears, whereas deer face predators like humans, wolves, vultures, and cougars.

The Key Differences Between Reindeer and Deer


Deer and reindeer are part of the Cervidae family. Reindeer rank as the fifth largest deer species. Overall, there are around 43 species of deer, each with their own distinct subspecies. Reindeer are one of these 43 species, with 8 subspecies that vary in size and location.


While deer are found globally and in nearly every US state, wild reindeer, also known as caribou (Rangifer tarandus), inhabit the Arctic tundra, Greenland, Scandinavia, Russia, Alaska, and Canada.


Deer are often associated with forests, but many thrive in transitional habitats between forests and thickets. Their habitats range from swamps, coniferous and mixed woodlands, grasslands, and mountains to rainforests and desert scrublands. Reindeer, on the other hand, reside in two primary habitats: vast open tundra and forested regions within polar areas.


Deer vary significantly in weight, from 20 pounds to over 1,000 pounds. Reindeer, being medium to large-sized deer, weigh within a 180 and 401-pound range. Their large, split hooves enable them to navigate icy and snowy terrains, while deer tend to struggle in extreme cold climates due to their small legs and pointed hooves.


Fur color of a reindeer varies according to season, habitat, and location. Northern reindeer have lighter fur compared to their southern counterparts. Deer, conversely, possess thinner fur that remains consistent in color, albeit appearing different with changing seasons.


A notable difference is that both male and female reindeer have antlers, while only male deer possess antlers. Reindeer antlers are large relative to their body size, while deer antlers are long, forked, and pointed, serving them well in ritual contests and attracting potential mates.


Although reindeer predominantly consume plants like lichens, moss, willow, and birch leaves as well as mushrooms, they have been known to resort to small rodents, eggs, and fish due to food scarcity. Contrarily, deer prefer to feed on twigs, grass, leaves, and fruits.


Wild deer cannot be domesticated and are commonly hunted for meat and antlers. Reindeer, however, can be domesticated for various purposes like pulling sleds, transportation, and providing milk, fur, and meat for farmers. Most reindeer hunting takes place in Russia, but there are also opportunities in other European countries and Greenland.

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