Skip to content

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and Dancer and Cupid are indeed males, they are free to openly clarify things now that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed.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!

Next up:

Dasher, Comet, and Blitzen.

Based on their names, they might be the sporty meatheads of the crowd.

Maybe a linebacker reindeer would have been more "blitz-appropriate" than a wide receiver. Too late!


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?

(image sources)


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…

25 Comments leave one →
  1. Lacey permalink
    12/22/2010 16:32

    omg brilliant. i’m dying of laughter. i love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. 12/22/2010 16:40

    i am never opening paint again. i can’t compete with these art skills.

    this was too funny.

    i used to be able to hang with the prego/ball-less reindeer but this year i’ve been slack.

  3. 12/22/2010 16:41

    i’m with lacey. this was such a great read! i actually have heard of this “conspiracy” thing-a-ma-bob before but your pictures just make it great. and i’ll admit: it feels good to know that i can run more in a year than a reindeer. holler.

    • 12/23/2010 06:09

      I was doing all this research to put together the materials for the activity with my students, and got really upset when I found out that other people had reached the “conspiracy” conclusion before I did. I’m always a step behind the times, seriously!

  4. 12/22/2010 16:44

    Amazing. The ball-less reindeer did it for me. I have nothing to add, except I would give a kidney, or a reindeer testicle, to sit in on one of your classes.

  5. 12/22/2010 17:24


    I’ve only started tracking monthly mileage recently – since I bought el Garmin – because it looks more impressive than my weekly mileage. I certainly haven’t exceeded 57 miles in one week.

    One more time: genius.

  6. 12/22/2010 17:40

    I vow to never look at a pair of fishnet stockings quite the same way again.

    And I do not EVEN want to know how much time it took for you to draw all those hormally-imbalanced-or-maybe-eunuch’d reindeer!!


    Bravo, sweaty one, bravo.

    • 12/22/2010 17:41


      see, when you make me laugh this hard, I lose my ability to either type or spell or both

  7. 12/22/2010 20:01

    HILarious! What wonderful illustrations, my favorite is the Donner one, sooo excellent. And I had no clue about the antler situation so I been schooled! Seems it is a bevy of babes taking Santa to his duties or else, a bevy of eunuchs. I prefer to think it’s the former.

  8. 12/22/2010 21:16

    Your reindeer illustrations are fantastic 😀 As for the antlers, who knows? I like the magic explanation.

    In 2009 I started keeping track of miles in a spreadsheet. I’ll be close to 800 by the end of 2010. Pretty good for me, but pretty wimpy by caribou, or some runner standards. It helps me track training, miles on my shoes, and I like to see the numbers add up!

  9. 12/23/2010 00:19

    this post is so full of WIN it’s amazing. bravo!

    I’m falling a little short of reindeer miles (probably 2300 for the year?) but I guarantee I’ve got those suckers beat with 130+ miles of swimming and 1200+ of biking. I’d like to see a caribou handle clipless pedals, thankyouverymuch. (and to answer the real question, I don’t track monthly volume, but I have weekly and yearly tallies. complete with graphs.)

  10. 12/23/2010 01:47

    Female reindeer win! We saw what we thought was a male near the Grand Canyon.

    I’ve tracked yearly and “monthly” (I use blocks of 4 weeks) mileage for a number of years. Haven’t run 3000 miles. Last year I ran 4,138 ks. I think there’s some value in doing this, especially if you’re a runner who responds well to “higher” mileage, rather than one who responds well to “lots” of speedwork.

    I think it’s the “years” of mileage (rather than weeks or months) that produce breakthrough results. At an elite level, Rob de Castella averaged 110 miles per week for 5 years (!) prior to winning the World Marathon Championships.

  11. 12/23/2010 02:27

    This post is so full of win! I love the fishnets on Vixen and that Dancer, Prancer, and Cupid can now come out of the closet.

  12. 12/23/2010 05:17

    This very well may be the funniest thing I’ve read all winter. Or maybe any Christmas season. Donner with the Silence of the Lambs… that’s priceless. PRICELESS!! I love it.

    Have you seen this, btw?

    • 12/23/2010 06:08

      Oh goodness, what an unfortunate headshot. No, I hadn’t seen it! My roommates and I lived across the street from the drug bust apartment they mention in early 2009. We were spying on all the goings-on that day and were surprised to see that Ithaca even had a SWAT team…

  13. 12/23/2010 14:55

    hehehe, loved the Donner cannibal reference!

    I strive for 40 mile weeks when I’m not marathon training, so the caribou/reindeer definitely have me beat in the mileage department.

  14. 12/23/2010 18:17

    Too cute! Loved it!

  15. 12/24/2010 06:18

    Awesome! Your pics are so funny!

    Me- I track weekly and yearly – (wanted to try for 2010 miles this year, but a summer of plantar fasciitis did that in!)

  16. 12/25/2010 17:04

    Wow, awesome. Never come across this before. And I am also seriously blown away by your visual aids.

  17. 12/26/2010 21:04

    This is so great. Merry Christmas!!

  18. 12/28/2010 19:43

    Ahhhhh I hate missing amazing posts when I am stranded in holiday-travel-no-internet-land!

    This is brilliant.

    The caribou definitely have me beat. I think my weekly average this year is somewhere in the upper-30s, although I did hit 60 when I was marathon training.

  19. 12/30/2010 10:09

    This post is so awesome that I don’t care that it’s about…reindeer! Oh man, the neutered reindeer looks so sad! You are very talented.

  20. 01/04/2011 03:19

    Freaking hysterical!
    I’m a yearly mileage tracking gal 🙂

  21. dubay319 permalink
    01/09/2011 10:21

    Cathleen this is your Magnum Opus , Absolutely brilliant I am in hysterics right now I freaking loved it . You are so gifted with your writing and with I love your blog and it brightens my day every time I read it .

    Plus your drawings give hyperbole and Half a run for her Money ..



  1. no resolutions « Cheaper Than Therapy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: