The Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)
By : William Bruce
Explorer of the Arctic and Antarctic
- 1911 -
         The reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) is another not only striking but also useful Arctic animal, and one of the most widely distributed. Some consider there are two species, but that matters little just now; suffice it to say that the reindeer is found in almost every Arctic land, except Franz Josef Land, where however at one time it use to exist, since their horns have been found there by myself and others. Its range extends so far south on European, Asiatic, and American continents that it may be regarded as being not only an Arctic but also a subarctic animal. The reindeer differs from all other deer in that both the male and female have antlers, though those of the female are smaller. The genus is distinguished by the form and position of these appendages, which take their origin immediately over the occipital ridge instead of low down the forehead. Another characteristic is the broad-spreading hoof, giving a good surface for support on snow or bog. The tail is conspicuously white. The larger varieties may weigh up to 400 lbs. The reindeer proves most valuable nutriment for Arctic explorers, and Eskimo, and other Arctic tribes; and, like the musk-ox, has  constantly furthered arctic exploration, not only as a valuable food supply, but also because its skin is one of the most useful articles of clothing. Reindeer-skin sleeping-sacks have been an almost indispensable part of the equiment of Arctic and Antarctic explorers; the skin of the younger reindeer is suitable for various articles of clothing. The skin of the legs of the reindeer buck are made into "finnesko," the most useful form of winter boots, by treatment for twenty-four hours in a strong decoction of birch or similar bark. The skin of the hind legs is used for the soles and sides, and that of the fore legs for the upper leather, their hair being left outside. Those boots are worn with the fur outside, and may be filled inside with sedge or "sennegroes." They are very suitable both for ski and Canadian snow-shoes.
The northern races of Europe and Asia have domesticated the reindeer. the standard of wealth of the Lapp is according to the number of reindeer he possesses. It is his all in all. The reindeer transports his house-hold and hismself from one place to another; it supplies him with milk and meat; it clothes his family and himself. Its bones form needles, and sinews threads. Its bones also make spoons and other useful artcicles of equipment. All and every part of a reindeer - living or dead - is  indispensable to him. For food the reindeer is never at a loss, even fending for itself when winter snow covers the ground. with its hoof the reindeer scrapes away the snow and discovers underneath the reindeer moss - a lichen which forms a favorite food.
It is pitiable to see this graceful animal ruthlessly slaughtered, as it has been in Spitsbergen during recent years, and it is discreditable to relate that a person of exalted position has been one of those who have set so deplorable an example. Norwegian hunters are also greatly to blame - not even hesitating to use strychnine and other poisons, and thus decimating not only reindeer but also bears, foxes, birds, and other animals, and transforming fertile Spitsbergen into a barren cemetery.
Back to Caribou Page  ||| Back to Wildlife Page ||| Back to Main Page
Have you checked The Website Store?