December 19, 2018 Calgary Zoo

YOU KNOW DASHER AND DANCER AND PRANCER AND… KIRBY

It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Kirby is one of four caribou here at the Calgary Zoo! He arrived earlier this year as a rescue from the Kirby Watershed area of British Columbia and quickly stole the hearts of visitors and staff alike with his curious nature and endearing disposition.

While there are some differences between Kirby and the reindeer who made it into the classic holiday jingle, they are actually the same species. As Santa’s reindeer prepare for their big night, what better time to talk about the season’s most famous animal?

Caribou are a wild subspecies found in North America and Greenland, while reindeer are mostly domesticated and found in northern Europe and Asia. Though domestication has resulted in reindeer being smaller, the two share many similarities, especially when it comes to surviving the chilly elements of, ahem, The North Pole.

 

Both caribou like Kirby and his reindeer friends have two layers of thick fur that keep them toasty warm during even the coldest of weather. Their wide hooves help them navigate through snow, acting like snowshoes, and their noses heat up the air they breathe by up to 80 degrees before it reaches their lungs!

They both also make the infamous clicking sound when they walk. It’s not caused by their hooves hitting the ground (or rooftop) but actually a tendon in their feet, and it serves a very useful purpose: preventing them from getting lost in snowstorms! The clicking ensures they can always hear their herd, even if they can’t see them. Of course, we imagine a glowing red nose would come in handy for this as well.

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