How Fast Are Reindeer? Are They Faster Than a Horse?

Written by Phil Dubley
Published: December 4, 2022
© iStock.com/RichardSeeley
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As the holidays approach, many people get curious about reindeer. Have you ever wondered how fast they can run? Well, they may not be able to pull a sleigh around the world in a single night, but they’re still quite fast. Here are some interesting facts about reindeer’s speed that you can wow your coworkers with at the annual holiday party!

How Fast Are Reindeer?

Caribou Migration
Though unable to run at full speed for long, reindeer can keep a steady pace for long distances.

©doliux/Shutterstock.com

These deer can reach a running speed of almost 50 miles per hour, though most recorded speeds are between 25 and 35 miles per hour, which is still quite impressive. They are way faster than many other animals of their size, which is very helpful for them to escape predators. 

They can’t keep their top speed for long, though. After a sprint not much longer than a minute, they inevitably slow down, but even then, they can still keep a galop of around 20 miles per hour for a while. A sled pulled by three to six reindeer will move at about 40 miles per hour, though it will take some time for the animals to reach their full speed.

Though unable to run at full speed for long, they can keep a steady pace of about 10 miles per hour for extremely long distances. In fact, they’re accustomed to traveling great distances in search of food. The North American Reindeer, or Caribou, annually migrates, and it even holds the record for the longest migration of a land animal. Some herds travel for over 3,000 miles every spring!

They may look like they have short legs, but they can jump quite high, clearing obstacles over 7 feet tall with ease during their long runs. They can also swim and even cross lakes and rivers during their migrations. Their swimming speed is between four and six miles per hour.

Reindeer vs. Horses: Which Are Faster?

Percheron horse
Racing horses are much faster than wild reindeer.

©Nadezda Murmakova/Shutterstock.com

In terms of average speed, horses are definitively faster than reindeer, as they reach over 55 miles per hour at full gallop. Quarter horses, which are explicitly bred to run short distances, can be even faster. However, the reindeer will have a massive advantage if we compare their speed on irregular terrains or snow-covered ground. They have flexible hooves that adapt better to mud and snow, while horses’ hooves only work well on solid ground.

In conclusion, racing horses are much faster than wild reindeer. But this is only true if they compete on regular, leveled ground. Also, reindeer have much more endurance and can travel far longer distances, especially on uneven ground.

Can You Ride a Reindeer?

reindeer
Natives from the arctic region hold annual competitions for reindeer sledding.

©Pav-Pro Photography Ltd/Shutterstock.com

Humans can ride these animals, but they are smaller than horses and can’t carry as much weight. For this reason, it is very rare for an adult human to ride a reindeer, even in places like Norway, Mongolia, and the north of Russia, where domesticated species roam.

They are mostly load animals, commonly hitched to sleds. Natives from the arctic region even hold incredibly popular annual competitions for reindeer sledding. Every year, over 70 different teams from the Yamal tundra compete in a series of races that take place in Salekhard, the only city in the Arctic circle.

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The Featured Image

Female Reindeer Have Antlers
A pair of young female reindeer stand in front of a beautiful glacial background. Watson Lake, Yukon, Canada. In young reindeer, the antlers are smaller, but they grow bigger each year.
© iStock.com/RichardSeeley

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About the Author

My name is Phil Dubley, I am a Canadian living in Argentina, but tomorrow I could be writing from anywhere else. Throughout my life, I've been in love with nature: plants, animals, people, and everything in it. I have a passion for wild animals - snakes, sharks, and felines have always fascinated me. As for plants, I love succulents. I have a collection of over ten different varieties on my terrace. Also, I use the hemp plant as CBD oil for sleep: it has been the only thing to tackle my insomnia effectively. I want to share all my knowledge about the areas I am passionate about with others who feel the same way. I hope you enjoy my articles, and in each one, you learn something new!

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Sources
  1. Animal Facts Encyclopedia, Available here: https://www.animalfactsencyclopedia.com/Reindeer-facts.html
  2. rbth.com, Available here: https://www.rbth.com/travel/334914-reindeer-sled-races-russia
  3. Pet Animals Query, Available here: https://petanimalsquery.com/how-fast-can-a-reindeer-run/
  4. All Animals FAQ, Available here: https://allanimalsfaq.com/horse/are-reindeer-faster-than-horses-2/