You can run as far as a herd of caribou, and other reindeer-related revelations.
In the spirit of Alaskan nature education and Santa, let’s talk about reindeer.
Specifically, Santa’s reindeer.
And how they aren’t who you think they are.
Now I can’t speak for all of you, but I was under the impression that most of Santa’s reindeer are male.
In review: We know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. And Rudolph.
Great. Now that we’re all up to speed on our reindeer names, let’s conduct a brief bit of name analysis before moving on.
Based on their names: if Prancer and Dancer and Cupid are indeed males, they are free to openly clarify things now that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed. Woohoo!
Dasher, Comet, and Blitzen.
Based on their names, they might be the sporty meatheads of the crowd.
Right. We’ve got those six covered.
And then we have Donner, the only one who won’t die of starvation in the event that Santa’s sleigh is ever waylaid in a blizzard.
And of course there’s Rudolph, who we are also lead to believe is a dude.
So with the probable exception of “Vixen,” Santa’s reindeer are most likely a bunch of guys. It’s hard not to assume this, given carol lyrics like, “All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call HIM names.”
Later on in life, however, we might learn about antlers.
Reindeer Antlers 101.
Fact #1: Male reindeer shed their antlers after the breeding season is over. Translation: THE BIG TOUGH MALES SHED THEIR ANTLERS FOR THE WINTER.
Fact #2: Of all the animals in the deer family, female reindeer are the ONLY female deer species that grow antlers. While male reindeer usually start shedding their antlers in October or November, the females keep theirs through the winter and lose them later on in the spring. Pregnant females keep their antlers for even longer.
Conclusion: Male reindeer have typically shed their antlers by Christmas.
What’s wrong with this picture?
If Santa’s reindeer are, in fact, male, they’re either all suffering from outrageous hormonal imbalances or there are some serious shenanigans going on up there at the North Pole.
We must conclude that Vixen is the only believable reindeer of the bunch, since she’s a female. And with a name like Vixen — no offense — but she sounds like the type who wouldn’t be too selective or careful about getting knocked up.
And since pregnant reindeer keep their antlers longer than anybody?
The jig is up, Santa. We all know your reindeer crew is a bunch of ladies. How ’bout you start giving the girls a little credit, you miserable bastard?
Although, wait a moment.
There is another explanation for all of this suspicious activity.
See, some reindeer herders neuter the males in order to keep their hormones in check through the winter months. These male reindeer may keep their antlers in the winter.
This means that if Santa’s reindeer are, in fact, male…
Rudolph and friends are a bunch of eunuchs.
Or heck, maybe they’re all just magical. Who knows.
One last neat fact to know about reindeer: They are the same species as caribou. Yup. The only real difference between a reindeer and a caribou is the name (and geographical location).
Annnnd, what does this post have to do with running?
Admittedly, very little. Until you consider that the caribou here in Alaska and Canada make the longest migrations of any land mammal, and can cover more than 3,000 miles in a year.
I was very impressed by this statistic and made sure to emphasize it to my students until I realized that this averages out to just over 8 miles a day, or about 57 miles per week, or 250 miles per month.
Which is still impressive, but it means that some of you super high mileage runners (ahem, marathonmaiden), make caribou look like a bunch of whiny slackers in the mileage department.
Do you know of any other theories that might explain this antlers conspiracy? There are reports of regular males occasionally keeping their antlers through the winter when they’re younger, but that’s a boring explanation. Entertain me.
How does your weekly, monthly, or yearly mileage measure up to that of Alaskan caribou? I’ve exceeded 57 mile weeks, but I’ve never actually looked at yearly mileage. Do you track your monthly and/or yearly miles? This moment is actually the first time the idea occurred to me. I only look at weekly mileage — never have kept tabs on those monthly or yearly totals…