Publish Date: 11/19/2020
The holiday season is a magical time here at Cheekwood, from one mile of lights to TRAINS! lit up for the holidays, there’s something for everyone to enjoy! In addition to the lights and festive decor, one of our most beloved holiday traditions is our resident reindeer, Hope and Dolly.In their sixth year at Cheekwood, the reindeer continue to charm visitors from near and far. This year, we are lucky to have Dolly returning for her second year with us, and we are thrilled to introduce our newest resident reindeer, Hope.
While the reindeer are regulars at Cheekwood, they are fairly uncommon in the state of Tennessee. We asked Hall Whitaker, Cheekwood reindeer keeper extraordinaire, to tell us some fun facts about these amazing animals that you probably didn’t know.
- Reindeer can live to be about 16 years old! Dolly is only a year old, but is already sporting her own set of antlers.
- There are 14 subspecies of reindeer. Many countries have reindeer as an indigenous species, but sometimes they are known by different names. In Canada they are known as caribou, which means “snow shoveler.”
- Reindeer are the only species of deer that the female grows antlers just like the males. Their antlers get bigger every year, but full grown male antlers are typically larger than those of the females.
- Every year, both male and female reindeer lose their antlers and grow a whole new set. Males lose their antlers after mating season, which is around October or November, while female reindeer keep their antlers much longer. Females usually don’t lose their antlers until January or February, and pregnant females can keep theirs even longer!
- Reindeer have a double coat that protects them from arctic conditions. Their outer coat sheds water, while their inner coat keeps them warm.
- Similar to other types of deer species, reindeer are crepuscular. This means they are most active at dawn and dusk.
- Unlike other species of deer, reindeer have shorter tails and ears as well as fur covered noses. This helps prevent frostbite in their natural habitats.
- Reindeer are quite the athletes! They can run at speeds of up to 50 mph. Usually, they prefer a slower pace as they migrate, covering anywhere from 500 – 3000 miles in a year depending on species and food availability.
- They are also excellent swimmers, the best of any of the deer species. They average about 4 mph but can get up to 7 mph if needed. Part of the reason is that their outer coat has hollow hair shafts which trap air and make them buoyant. They wear their own life preserver!
- Reindeer are the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light! This allows them to detect urine of their predators in the snow.
Learn more about Hope and Dolly and see them for yourself during regular daytime hours and at night during Holiday LIGHTS.
For more information about Cheekwood’s Holiday LIGHTS, visit our Holiday LIGHTS calendar page here.