Difference Between Elk and Reindeer

Are you familiar with different types of hoofed animals? Do you know about the main difference between elk and reindeer? If you are not familiar with their differences, read more! Elk and reindeers are physically similar to each other and have the same size. If you see them from a distance, then you might not see a big difference between them since they belong to the same family, the Cervidae family. But the truth is that there is a difference between elk and reindeer.

Elk vs Reindeer

The main difference between elk and reindeer is that elk have larger antlers relative to their body size and shape, while reindeer’s antlers are always covered in velvet. Elk are mainly found in North America and eastern parts of Asia, while reindeers are mostly found in arctic and subarctic regions.

Elk and Reindeer

An elk is a type of deer and one of the largest deer species. Elk usually live in mountainous forests and mostly spend their time along the edges of the forest. Elk have a high pitch so that they can sound every morning and evening. Elk are also known as “Wapiti.” It is one of the largest species found in the mountains of central Asia.

The other name of reindeer is “Caribou,” and they live in the sub-Arctic Boreal forests. Reindeer also belong to a deer family. In Europe, it is known as reindeer, while in North America, it is called caribou. Reindeer are one of the domestic animals. The interesting thing about the reindeer is that their antlers fall off every year and then regrow.

Comparison Table Between Elk and Reindeer

Parameters of ComparisonElkReindeer
LifespanLive between 8 to 12 yearsLive for 15 years on average
DietEat grass, plants, and leaves from the treesEat small mammals and even eggs of the birds
HabitatFound in mountainous forestFound in the arctic boreal forest of Greenland
PredatorsGray wolves and mountain lionsWolves prey on reindeer throughout the year
Other NamesWapiticaribou
AntlersOnly male elk have antlersBoth sexes have antlers

What is Elk?

Elk are heavier animals and have a reddish hue. He has a large rump which is brown and looks slimmer. It is one of the largest species in the family of deer. They are mostly found in Central and East Asia. Elk usually eat grasses, plants, leaves, and bark of the trees. Only the male elk have large antlers through their shed.

 Most people make comparisons between elk and deer. But they are different from each other. An elk is just a type of deer and one of the largest deer species. A female elk can reach about five ft. from the ground, and the antlers of a male can reach up to 4 feet above the head, which gives them a total height of 9 feet. Male elk lose their antlers every year, usually in March, but their antlers begin to grow again. This happens every year. In summer, all elks migrate towards green ground mountains for grazing.

● Strong and older antlers: During the summer season, all elks move towards the green mountain ground. Then they set a battle between new and old elks. Older elks whole have strong and bigger antlers win the battle from those elks that have new antlers.

● Elk during winter: In winter, elks usually experience a temperature that is below from 40 to 0. In this season, male and female elks remain separate. The herds of elks return to the lower valley pastures.

● Diet and nutrition: As we know that elks are herbivores. They only feed upon the plants. They usually eat the leaves and bark of the trees.

● Habits: Elks usually graze in the early morning or the evening. During the day, they spend most of their time chewing their cud.

The number of elks is decreasing day by day. Hunters are always in search of elks to get their fur, antlers, and teeth. Elks have also become prey species for wolves and brown bears.

What is Reindeer?

Reindeer is similar in size to elk. They are very large animals. Both males and females have antlers. Reindeer include in both sedentary and migratory populations. Reindeer are also known as Caribou, and they are the family of deer. Large male reindeer can stand more than 3.9 feet tall at the shoulder, and they can have 550 pounds in weight. Female reindeer are smaller in size than male reindeer. There are some facts about reindeer:

● Antlers: Reindeer is the only type of deer in which both sexes have antlers. And these antlers fall off and regrow every year. An antler of a male can grow up to 51 inches long, and a female’s antler can grow up to 20inches.

● Red-nosed Reindeer: Reindeer have a dense network of blood vessels in their nose. In winter, the blood flow in their nose increases which helps them to keep their surface warm.

● Habitat: Reindeer live in the arctic and sub-arctic green mountain land. They always feed and travel in groups. In winters, reindeer use their antlers for digging the snow to find food.

Main Differences Between Elk and Reindeer

  1. Elk is a much heavier animal as compared to reindeer.
  2. Male elk have only antlers, while reindeer males and females both have antlers.
  3. Elk antlers are not covered with velvety fur, but reindeer antlers are covered with it.
  4. Elk are mostly found in Central Eastern Asia, while reindeer are found in colder climates of arctic and sub-arctic Asia.
  5. Elk have dark, shaggy necks, while reindeer have stocky with thick necks.


Elk and reindeer often travel in herds. Elk are the selective feeders, while reindeer are the grazers. They both are almost the same in size and species of deer. The antlers of the reindeer are tall and curved, and the elk is also the same, but the reindeer’s antlers are always covered with velvety fur.

Elk are social creatures, while reindeer are social animals. In the herd of elk, all the females stay in one group and the male in another. Reindeer are also called proficient swimmers because they use their hooves as a paddle for swimming. Their thick coat layers help them to float.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969704007867
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/polar-record/article/mercury-in-lichens-and-reindeer-hair-from-alaska-20052007-pilot-survey/E4480E10796D4009542459C4034D1567
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