Reindeer Baby Boris Grows Up

Posted at 3:08 pm November 10, 2010 by Kim Weibel

Boris sniffs the camera.

See Kim’s previous post, Reindeer Baby Boris Comes Home.

As Boris grew older, physical changes in him became more and more obvious. He was getting taller and more muscular. His thick velvet coat was getting even more dense, and antler buds were beginning to grow on top of his fuzzy black head. Every once in awhile Boris would delicately balance on three legs in order to scratch an antler bud with his hoof, as if satisfying a little itch. He also began growing the thick patch of skin and hair that reindeer display under their throats. Boris was beginning to look more like a reindeer and less like a Holstein calf!

Boris with keeper Pamela Weber

Interestingly, reindeer and caribou are the only species of deer in which males, females, and even calves produce antlers (see post All about Antlers). Female reindeer and calves shed their antlers around March or April and start growing new antlers immediately after shedding the old ones. Male reindeer shed their antlers at the end of the winter season, after the rut, and grow them again around January or February.

Inside the fur-covered nose of a reindeer are long nasal passages that warm the cold winter air before it reaches the animal’s lungs. A furry scarf or “dewlap” of skin and hair worn under their throats is really an inflatable pouch of skin that amplifies the roaring sound made during rutting season. Other vocalizations reindeer make are honks and bellows. We have heard Boris honk when he is waiting for a bottle and bellow when it isn’t coming quickly enough!

Reindeer calves are born with teeth, and when they are just a few weeks old they begin sampling the solid food their mothers eat. In the wild tundra, reindeer dine on the leaves and branches of willows and graze on grasses and sedges. In the winter they use their well-adapted hooves to dig under the snow and ice to reach their favorite food of lichens, sometimes called “reindeer moss.”

Boris sports antler buds.

When Boris was about one week old, he began sampling the solid food that was set aside for him by his keepers. He favored the leaves from the acacia branches hung for him to sample and began picking up strands of hay to taste as well. Although most of it dribbled out of his mouth and onto the ground at first, he eventually learned to chew and swallow a bit of both. Mimicking the adult reindeer, he got better at it and was soon munching his hay and pellet like a pro.

Thanks to a very healthy appetite, Boris was gaining about 5 pounds (2 kilograms) a week! He was quickly out-growing his howdy pen and was ready to graduate to the large exhibit.

Kim Weibel is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Check back soon for Kim’s next post about Boris.

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13 Responses to “Reindeer Baby Boris Grows Up”

  1. Jeslyn in San diego says:

    Boy, the polar bears look like brown bears after sleeping in the mulch!

  2. Kat says:

    Hopefully, Boris will be old enough soon to be the lead reindeer on Santa’s sleigh and give Rudolf a break! LOL! He is a cutie, keep up the fantastic work, I love the new pictures of him. Has Boris ever wandered over to see the Polar Bear gang and if so how did he react?

    Moderator’s note: He ran away, just like a good reindeer should 😉

  3. Vonna - North Carolina says:

    How funny Jeslyn, I thought the same thing. When the cam first came…..brown bears???

    All I saw was his right side and it was totally brown……I had to do a double take. I have yet to see them dive into the pool with all that dirt on them. Too funny to see them scratch around in the mulch and then nap.

  4. Dianna from Ohio says:

    Thanks Kim for the update on Boris the cutie… After reading your last blog… I was wondering if perhaps he was below normal birth weight because his mom was stressed about her move to a new environment?

    They grow up so fast!! I’m glad he’s doing so well… 🙂

  5. Margaret says:

    Thanks, Kim. Glad to hear that Boris is doing so well with the rest of the herd, and learning to be a Reindeer.

  6. Karen in Edmonton AB Canada says:

    I can’t believe how fast he is growing. Do you still have the block between the polar bears and the reindeer?

  7. Debi says:

    Boris is absolutely adorable and I love his little antler buds! He is such a lovely chocolate colour! How old is Boris now? I love that they start trying to eat as early as 1 week old! Does he have a favourite food?

    Moderator’s note: Boris was born September 18, 2010.

  8. cindy in KC says:

    I love the word ‘antler buds’! He is so cute! I have never seen pictures of a baby reindeer so thank you so much!

  9. Sue Martz says:

    Baby Boris is just too cute!! Thanks for the update on our handsome boy and for taking such good care of him.

  10. Lisa in Colorado says:

    He is so adorable! Thanks for the info on reindeer. I’ll never think those long noses are silly again. Wish we could hear him vocalizing. (hint, hint)

    Moderator’s note: I’ll see if we can get a recording of Boris “talking.”

  11. Susan(UK) says:

    Boris couldn’t possibly be anything but cute!

  12. kim weibel says:

    Hello Everyone,

    Thanks for all your comments on Boris. He is getting really tall and turning into quite the handsome young reindeer.

    4) Diana,
    Boris’s mother is a young animal and was a first-time mom. It is not unusual for young first timers to give birth to small-sized babies.

    6) Karen,
    The visual barrier on the common fence that separates the reindeer and polar bears has been removed. Boris has managed to stay out of trouble with the bears so far. Knowing Boris, I’m sure he will find another pile of trouble to get mixed up in soon enough! 🙂

    7) Debi,
    Right now, Boris’ favorite food is milk. 🙂

  13. Kat says:

    Oh my goodness, I think I just saw Boris out by where Tatqiq lyes down in the dirt over where the fence is. If that was him, he is adorable and so graceful (until Tatqiq looked over at him and tried to say HI, then he took off). He seems to be growing very fast. Way to go Boris, Santa is waiting for you….