10 Fun Facts About Our Resident Reindeer

10 Fun Facts About Our Resident Reindeer

Reindeer at Cheekwood

The holiday season is a magical time here at Cheekwood, from the one million Holiday LIGHTS, to the period carolers singing Christmas classics, to the 20-foot-tall Poinsettia Tree, there’s something for everyone to enjoy! In addition to the lights and festive decor, one of our most beloved holiday traditions are resident reindeer, Jolly and Joy.

In their fourth year at Cheekwood, the reindeer continue to charm visitors from near and far. They are carefully looked after by Cheekwood team members and, of course, Santa himself, who checks in throughout the week. This year, we are lucky to have Jolly returning for her second year with us, and we are thrilled to introduce her young offspring, Joy.

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.

Did you know?

  1. Joy is just 7 months old, but is already sporting her own set of antlers.
  2. 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.
  3. Reindeer are the only species of deer that the female grows antlers just like the males.
  4. Every year, both male and female reindeer lose their antlers and grow a whole new set.
  5. Reindeer are a true ruminant. Similar to a cow, they have a four-chambered stomach and lie down to chew their cud numerous times through the day. Yum! Yum!
  6. They are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk just like other types of deer species.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!
  9. Reindeer really do go “click, click, click” up on the rooftop. Yes, if you hear clicking it is small tendons in their feet moving over bones. The sound serves as a form of communication for them, allowing them to identify each other and know where the herd is, since they are often challenged with limited visibility due to heavy snowfall.
  10. Reindeer milk has one of the highest butterfat percentages of all the terrestrial mammals, at 22%. However, you’d be surprised to know it also has the lowest lactose content at just 2.4% (about half of cow’s milk.) To compare, lactating cows don’t give very much, only about a cup and a half a day and the baby needs it all! That’s why a baby reindeer, called a calf, starts to eat forage along with its mother’s milk at just a few weeks of age.

Learn more about Jolly and Joy and see them for yourself during regular daytime hours and at night during Holiday LIGHTS.

For more information about Cheekwood’s Holiday LIGHTS, visit https://cheekwood.org/calendar/holiday-lights/.


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