Caribou, also known as Reindeer, have been herded for centuries by several Arctic and Subarctic people including the Sami and the Nenets. They are raised for their meat, hides, antlers and for milk and transportation. In traditional nomadic herding, reindeer herders migrate with their herds between coast and inland areas according to an annual migration route, and herds are keenly tended. However, reindeer have never been bred in captivity, though they were tamed for milking as well as for use as draught animals or beasts of burden.
The use of caribou as semi-domesticated livestock in Alaska was introduced in the late 1800s by Sheldon Jackson as a means of providing a livelihood for Native peoples there. A regular mail run in Wales, Alaska, used a sleigh drawn by caribou. In Alaska, caribou herders use satellite telemetry to track their herds, using online maps and databases to chart the herd’s progress.
Caribou are important animals in the arctic as they fed on lichen, something that not many animals feed on. The young may provide food for animals like wolves.
Caribou are the same as reindeer. They are herded and eaten at times. Perhaps more significant is that symbolism that a reindeer is to humans. The association with Christmas and Rudolph has everyone adoring reindeer and thinking of Christmas Eve and the gifts that will arrive via sleigh. This is something important to many humans, especially children.
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