Historically, reindeer populated most of Scandinavia, Greenland, eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and northern China. Today wild reindeer populations are found primarily (but not exclusively) in Finland, Norway, Alaska and Canada, Siberia and Greenland. Reindeer in North America are called Caribou.
Although there are examples where reindeer have been domesticated for milking and as beasts of burden, man has primarily benefited from them in a semi-domesticated state, particularly the nomadic herders. They are valued for their meat, antlers and skins.
Reindeer meat is both lean and tender. It is a staple throughout Scandinavian countries.The most popular dish in Lapland is sauteed reindeer and meatballs are popular as well, and can be purchased canned. Reindeer sausage and organ meats are also commonly available.
Both male and female reindeer grow antlers. The size of a male's antlers increases his status within a population. Mature males lose their antlers in December, immature males, in the spring, while female reindeer shed their antlers in the summer months. Dried and ground reindeer antler is considered to be an aphrodisiac in Asian countries.
Reindeer hides are valued as rugs, wall decorations, and as leather for making jackets, gloves, shoes, belts, etc. Reindeer hides have been so used in areas where reindeer are indigenous for centuries.
And you thought all they did was pull Santa's sleigh!
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