As many of you who visited Blithbury Reindeer Lodge over Christmas will have noticed all our reindeer, big and small, were sporting antlers (some very lovely sets too).
Now Christmas has been and gone and we are hurtling towards spring, our reindeer are starting to “drop” their antlers; just like in our Christmas story about Swan the baby reindeer. Reindeer naturally “drop” their antlers every year. Bulls (male entire reindeer) are the first to lose their antlers after the very busy rutting season which takes place in October.
The castrated male reindeer; like Combo, Cloud, Ralph and Tide, don’t naturally lose their antlers , as they don’t experience the testosterone surge and fall as the Bulls do. We therefore have to give them a helping hand to remove the old set so that the new antler sets can re-grow and be bigger and better than last year.
The cows (female reindeer) get to keep their antlers for much longer than the rest of the herd and normally don’t drop their antlers until after they deliver a calf around May. The cows keep their antlers to allow them to be the more dominant of the herd (and get to eat all the food) and also so their body can focus on carrying and growing their calf through the winter and spring.
Within a few weeks of the antlers dropping the new antlers start to re-grow through. This stage is known as “in velvet” due to the velvet like skin which covers the antler while it grows – protecting the many blood vessels. During this time we don’t transport our herd as knocking or breaking an antler whilst in velvet will be incredibly painful.
During this stage antlers can grow by 2cm per day. By August all the reindeer (except babies) will have new antlers which will be fully grown and hopefully bigger and better than last year. Babies (calves) are born without antlers but these start growing within 6-7 weeks.
So when visiting us at Blithbury Reindeer Lodge this year be sure to check on the progress of the new antlers on our lovely herd and don’t forget to look in on your favourite reindeer (don’t worry we won’t tell the rest of the herd).