Difference Between Caribou and Reindeer

The animal kingdom is filled with various types of animals of different sizes and shapes. Some are bigger and some are smaller. Some are taller and some are shorter.

You will also find some animals with a single pair of horns on their heads and some with numerous horns. You will also be surprised to know that several animals look quite similar to each other.

Take the example of a reindeer and a caribou for instance.

Both the caribou and the reindeer are considered to be similar animals with some areas of similarities and dissimilarities between them. When you talk about their differences, one of the prime differences is the domestication of these animals.

Although caribou happens to be a wild animal, reindeer are domesticated in many homes and farms. After all, the sled on which Santa Claus travels is pulled by reindeer.

Caribou vs Reindeer

The main difference between Caribou and Reindeer is the environment in which they grow. Both are from the deer family, but inborn in the wild are recognized as Caribou.

On the other side, the ones who grow-up in domesticated regions are known as Reindeer. The caribous are bigger than Reindeer.

They are found in North America and Greenland. Conversely, Reindeer are shorter than the Caribou and can be seen in northern Europe and Asian lands.

Caribou vs Reindeer


Comparison Table Between Caribou and Reindeer (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonCaribouReindeer
DefinitionThe caribou is a type of deer that has a circumpolar distribution.The reindeer is quite similar to the caribou and is found in the sub-Artic, Arctic, boreal, tundra, and the mountainous regions of Siberia, Northern Europe, and North America.
Fur qualityThe fur quality of a caribou is rather thin or moderately dense.The fur of a reindeer is thick and dense.
DomesticationA caribou is never domesticated.A reindeer is also seen domesticated in large farms and houses.
SizesThe size of a caribou is usually medium.A reindeer is normally larger as compared to a caribou.
Breeding seasonThe breeding season of a caribou starts 4 months later and the calving takes place during late August.The breeding season of a reindeer is normally 4 months earlier and the calving takes place in April.
MigrationA caribou can migrate by traveling almost 3000 miles every year.A reindeer can migrate only by traveling short distances.


What is Caribou?

If you have watched the National Geographic channel carefully, you will know that the deer has several species. One such species is a caribou. To be more precise, caribou happens to be more commonly found in North America.

Thus, it can be said that the caribou originated from the mountainous and the arctic regions. Apart from North America, Siberia and the northern European countries are some of the other places where you will find caribou.


What is Reindeer?

Many people refer to the caribou as the reindeer outside the North American region. It is a specific type of species of the deer that is normally found in the extreme cold regions of the earth such as the North and the South Poles.

The average herd size of the reindeer, referred to as the Rangifer tarandus, varies based on the various geographic regions.

If you want to know about the largest herd amongst the various found across the globe, the ones found in Russia are the biggest of the lot. You will find close to 400000 to 1000000 in a herd.

Although the herb found around the George River in Canada was the second-largest, today, it has shrunk in number.

If there were between 28000 and 385000 in a herd in the past, the numbers have fallen to around 9000 as reported by the CBC.

Reindeer found in different regions of the world vary in color and size. The smallest of the lot is found in Svalbard and the largest breed is known as the Boreal Woodland caribou.

As far as physical appearances are concerned, most of the different types of reindeer grow antlers.

This is true for both the sexes. Even the size of the antlers varies between the subspecies. Most of the males can grow antlers to a size of around 39 inches wide and 53 inches long.

The color of the fur of a reindeer also varies between the different types. For some types of reindeer, the color of their fur depends on the season. Those found in the North are whiter and those found in the South are darker.

The coat of a reindeer has two layers of fur. First is a dense woolly undercoat, followed by a longer-haired overcoat that has hollow and air-filled hair. This helps them to stay warm in cold climates.

reindeer 1

Main Differences Between Caribou and Reindeer

  1. Although most of you may say that the caribou and the reindeer are the same animals named differently in different parts of the world, there are several points of distinction between them.
  2. Although caribou is normally found in the jungle or out in the open in herds and cannot be domesticated at all, reindeer can be domesticated for different reasons such as food, clothing, and shelter.
  3. The breeding season of a caribou and a reindeer is also different. Reindeer start their breeding season almost four months before the breeding time of the caribou.
  4. Another distinguishable aspect between a caribou and a reindeer is the size of their body. If you take the average, a reindeer will appear to be much larger than a caribou.
  5. The distance traveled by a caribou and a reindeer to migrate is also different from each other. Caribou can easily travel 3000 miles each year to find a green pasture. However, reindeer do not travel so much to find a better place to live.
Difference Between Caribou and Reindeer



Now that the points of distinction have been pointed out, it should be much simpler now to distinguish between a reindeer and a caribou. Although these two may appear to be the same, in reality, they are not.

Since reindeer are domesticated, they are fortunate enough to find a better and warmer place to live as opposed to a caribou. As a result of this fact, reindeer experience a better health status and breeding capability.

It will not be a bad thing to say that the drastic changes in the climatic conditions all across the world have decreased the numbers of caribou and reindeer. Large scale deforestation is also a major cause of the decrease in their numbers.

Key Differences Between Caribou and Reindeer (PDF Format)

Download the key differences in .PDF format, to read or print them later:

Difference Between Caribou and Reindeer



  1. https://septentrio.uit.no/index.php/rangifer/article/view/841
  2. https://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/z94-127
AskAnyDifference HomeClick here
Search for "Ask Any Difference" on Google. Rate this post!
[Total: 0]
One request?

I’ve put so much effort writing this blog post to provide value to you. It’ll be very helpful for me, if you consider sharing it on social media or with your friends/family. SHARING IS ♥️

Notify of
1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

You explained the difference between them in great way. She knows a lot about Xmas.