Ever wonder why one of Santa’s all-male reindeer team was named Vixen? Well, here’s a real gender-bender: Deer experts studying depictions of Santa’s reindeer (alas, photographic evidence is rare) say Rudolph and all the rest actually appear to be females.
What’s more, female reindeer are likely to be pregnant during the winter months. So, has Santa been roof-hopping and gift-hauling on the backs of pregnant female reindeer or these years? The evidence is in the antlers.
Reindeer, or caribou, are the only deer in which both sexes grow antlers, which are shed and regrown every year. Bucks usually shed their antlers by December, having given them plenty of use battling other bucks during the mating season in summer and fall. Immature males and non-expecting females lose their antlers in early spring. Pregnant females keep their antlers as a means of defense ’til late spring, when their calves are born. This means that when Christmas Eve rolls around, the only fully-grown reindeer that still have antlers are female.