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10 Fascinating Facts About Reindeer Beyond Christmas [PHOTOS]

Dec 18, 2012 07:36 AM EST
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Christmas is around the corner and the mention of reindeer is inevitable. However, for several indigenous groups of people in Siberia, Canada, Norway and elsewhere, reindeers are not just for Christmas, but an innate part of their existence.

Reports suggesting that world's reindeer population is on decline have surfaced often for the past few years around Christmas. It's needless to state that the shrinking herd size of reindeer affects the subsistence of its people. Among those suffering also include the Innu, the tribal inhabitants of Canada's Labrador and Quebec provinces, who are dependent on the world's largest herd of reindeer - caribou, popularly known as wild reindeer in North America.

According to Survival International, an organization working for tribal people's rights worldwide, industrial development projects/plants are the culprits. Here are  nine other such interesting facts about reindeer and its people, besides Christmas:

1. Every autumn, hundreds of Sámi reindeer travel through the freezing waters of Norway’s Kågsundet fjord during their annual migration. It takes a week for the entire herd to swim between the summer pastures of the Arnøy island and the wintering grounds on the mainland.

Credit: Jason Roberts/Survival International

2. The fat content of reindeer milk is 22 percent; six times more than that of a cow.

Credit: Raipon/Survival International

3. The Eveny people believe that reindeer were created by the sky god Hövki, not only to provide food and transport on earth, but also to lift the human soul up to the sun.

Subhankar Banerjee/Survival International

4. Reindeer in Europe and Asia have sustained tribal peoples for millennia; the oil industry is now destroying the lichen the reindeer live on.

Credit: Jon Spaull/Survival International

5. The Nenets people of the Yamal peninsula in Siberia migrate with their reindeer for up to 1,000 km, including a crossing of the frozen Ob River.

Credit: Steve Morgan/Survival International

6. The Nenets use reindeer skin to make clothes. A Nenets man wears a ‘malitsa’ which is made of around 4 reindeer skins, while women wear a ‘yagushka’ which is made from 8 reindeer skins. Both wear hip-high reindeer-skin boots which they stuff with sedge grass for extra warmth.

Credit: Steve Morgan/Survival International

7. No part of the caribou is wasted: the Innu people of north-eastern Canada have lived on their land for approximately 8,000 years following and hunting the vast herds of migrating caribou (reindeer). They must share caribou meat and carefully preserve the leg bones; throwing them away is disrespectful to kanipinikat sikueu, the ‘Master’ spirit of the caribou. Antlers are hung high in the trees as a mark of respect.

Credit: Joanna Eede/Survival International

8. Reindeer can regulate their body temperature by reducing the blood temperature in their legs and drawing heat up to their core. The antlers, which are shed and regrown annually, are one of the fastest growing non-cancerous tissues known to science.

Credit: Raipon/Survival International

9. Every Nenets herder has a sacred reindeer, which must not be harnessed or slaughtered until it is no longer able to walk.

Credit: Steve Morgan/Survival International

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