How big is the caribou?
A barren-ground caribou is a medium-sized mammal with long legs and
large hoofs. Porcupine bulls (males) average a shoulder height of 112
cm (44 in). Cows (females) average a shoulder height of 194 cm (41 in).
How much does a caribou weigh?
Porcupine bulls (males) average 125 kg (275 lbs) in weight and cows
(females) average 89 kg (196 lbs).
How do you tell the male (bull) from the female (cow)?
Because both sexes have antlers it can be difficult determining the
sex of the younger aged animals that have similar antler growth. Mature
cows are smaller than mature bulls. An older bull will generally have
a conspicuous neck mane visible from the front and side The best feature
for identifying the sex of the caribou is the presence or absence of
a patch of dark hair around the vulva or a penis sheath.
Is a caribou the same animal as a reindeer?
A caribou is sometimes called a reindeer. All are classified as Rangifer
tarandus, but there are 5 subspecies. Porcupine caribou are classified
as Rangifer tarandus granti. Reindeer are a
domesticated variety of caribou that are herded by humans and used for
pulling sleds. Most reindeer occur in Scandinavia and Siberia. They
generally are smaller and have shorter legs than their wild relatives.
In Siberia, caribou are referred to as "wild" reindeer.
How is the caribou adapted for living in the snow and cold?
The body of the caribou is completely covered in a thick coat of hollow
guard hairs and fine crinkly underfur. The air cells in the hollow hair
act as an insulating layer to keep in the body heat. Even the muzzle
(the part of the head that includes the nowe and mouth) and the tail
are fully furred.
How are their feet adapted for snow and cold?
The hooves (feet) of caribou are another good example of adaption to
their environment. The hooves are very large and wide like snowshoes
which help support the caribou when walking in the snow. As additional
protection in the winter the edges of the tows grow longer to make a
horny rim that the anials can walk on instead of the soft fleshy pad.
The pads shrink and hair between the toes grows longer to cover them.
This sharp-edged large hoof are good for digging through the deep snow
to find food.
Do both male and female caribou have antlers?
Yes. Caribou are unique among deer in that both male and female have
antlers. The bull's antlers are usually larger and more complex than
the female's antlers. Some cows (about 3-5%) do not grow antlers at
all (called "bald" or "poled"). Antler shape varies
greatly and it is said that no two sets are exactly alike.
How much do antlers weigh?
A cow's antlers average about 270 g
How long do the caribou keep their antlers?
Every year the caribou grow a new set of antlers from two permanent
stumps of bone (pedicles) on the head.
Do caribou rely on their eyesight for survival?
Caribou have large eyes located on the sides of their head so they can
see in almost every direction except to their rear. They have a lot
of rods in their eyes so they see well in poor light. They have very
few cones in comparison so do not see colors well in poor light. They
are very good at detecting movement.
have big noses, does this mean they have a good sense of smell?
Their sharpest sense appears to be the sense of smell. A cow can recognize
her calf by its smell.Caribou will try to identify an unknown by traveling
downwind in a characteristic trot with their heads held high to test
the wind for scents.When in danger, a caribou will rear up on their
hind legs and deposit a scent from their tarsal glands. Other caribou
in the area will smell this and be alerted of the danger.