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11 fun facts about reindeer

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Ah, a slew of holiday parties loom and that means finding conversational topics to amuse (or tactfully repel) everyone from your creepy uncle to coworker’s spouse you’ve met a million times but whose name leaves you drawing a complete blank.

Thankfully, Jill Harness at mental_floss has gathered eleven things you probably didn’t know about the creatures powering Santa’s ride to fill in those awkward pauses between trips to the open bar.

1. Reindeer and caribou are the same thing. Historically, the European/Asian reindeer and American Caribou were considered to be different species, but they are actually one and the same. There are two major groups of reindeer, the tundra and the woodland, which are divided according to the type of region the animal lives in, not their global location. The animals are further divided into subspecies, ranging from nine to thirteen depending on who is doing the classification. At least one subspecies, the Arctic Reindeer, is already extinct.

2. They go by many names, all of which seem appropriate. Reindeer comes from the Old Norse word “hreinin,” which means “horned animal.” Caribou is based on the French word for “snow shoveler,” in reference to the animal’s habit of digging through the snow for food. In many Eastern European languages, the root word for the creature is “počaw,” which comes from an Iranian word meaning “cattle.” This makes sense given that the animals were semi-domesticated in these areas and used for meat, fur, milk and transportation.

Full story at mental_floss via Buzzfeed.

Slaves to Santa.

Photo credit: Fotolia

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