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Rangifer tarandus

Author Name

(Linnaeus, 1758).


Syst. Nat., 10th ed., 1: p67.

Common Name


Type Locality

"Habitat in Alpibus Europae et Asiae maxime septentrionalibus"; identified as Sweden, Alpine Lapland by Thomas (1911a:151); based on domesticated stock.


Circumboreal in tundra and taiga from Svalbard, Norway, Finland, Russia, Alaska (USA) and Canada including most arctic islands, and Greenland, south to N Mongolia, China (Inner Mongolia; now only domesticated or feral?), Sakhalin Isl, and USA (N Idaho and Great Lakes region). Introduced to, and feral in, Iceland, Kerguelen Isls, South Georgia Isl, Pribilof Isls, St. Matthew Isl. Extinct in Sweden.


Current as of November 16, 2005, please see corresponding Web site reference for most recent status.


U.S. ESA – Endangered as R. t. caribou in Canada (SE British Columbia at the Canadian-USA border, Columbia River, Kootenay River, Kootenay Lake, and Kootenai River) and USA (Idaho, Washington); IUCN – Endangered as R. t. pearyi, otherwise Lower Risk (lc). The woodland caribou is highly endangered throughout its distribution right into Ontario (V. Geist, in litt.).


Subspecies have been placed in two divisions, compressicornis or Woodland Reindeer, and cylindricornis or Tundra Reindeer (Jacobi, 1931). These names of divisions are non-Linnean; cilindricornis Camerano, 1902 is a lapsus for cylindricornis and is not a Linnean name. An additional category has since been recognised for the Peary Caribou, due to marginal or seasonal sympatry between caribou in Arctic America, following Banfield (1963). Subspecies here considered valid are based on Banfield (1961), considerably modified by Geist (1998): caribou division or Woodland Caribou (includes also buskensis, valentinae, dawsoni, fennicus, and phylarchus); populations transitional between caribou and tarandus divisions (includes osborni); tarandus division, Barren-ground Caribou or Reindeer (includes also caboti, groenlandicus, pearsoni, sibiricus, and terraenovae); and platyrhynchus division (including pearyi or Peary Caribou and platyrhynchus or Svalbard Reindeer). The extinct insular dawsoni has been treated as a distinct species (Cowan and Guiguet, 1965) but does not differ from caribou or granti (= groenlandicus) in mtDNA sequences (Byun et al., 2002). Grouping the Svalbard Reindeer with the Peary Caribou is provisional (Groves and Grubb, 1987).


Peter Grubb, 2005.

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