The story goes that Santa’s sleigh is pulled by nine reindeer, the most famous of which is Rudolph. In the popular song and film about Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer is male, and the film implies the other reindeer are male as well.
But an Instagram post with more than 117,000 likes claims all of Santa’s reindeer are actually female because male reindeer lose their antlers in the winter.
Are all of Santa’s reindeer female?
While most male reindeer shed their antlers before Christmastime, the antlers of castrated male reindeer fall off at a different time. So, Santa’s reindeer could be female or castrated males.
WHAT WE FOUND
The antlers of male and female reindeer grow and fall off each year, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the San Diego Zoo. The timing of when those antlers shed is different, though.
The San Diego Zoo and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game say most males drop their antlers before Christmastime. That leaves them without antlers until the following spring.
Meanwhile, pregnant female reindeer keep their antlers through the winter until their calves are born in May. Non-pregnant female reindeer lose their antlers in the winter, according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
But castration can impact when male reindeer lose their antlers. Craig Roberts, an agricultural zoologist and professor of social psychology at the University of Stirling in Scotland, says castrated males “have antler cycles similar to those of females.” That means there are some male reindeer that could have antlers during Christmastime.
Roberts says most of the reindeer used to pull sleds are castrated males because “they are easier to handle.”
The Franklin Institute, a science and technology museum in Philadelphia, says that Santa’s reindeer are either female or castrated males.
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