Difference Between Elk And Reindeer

Elk and reindeer are two of the most fascinating mammals found in the northern hemisphere. While they may appear to be similar, there are some significant differences between them. Here we will discuss the difference between elk and reindeer, including physical appearance, habitat, and behavior.

Physical appearance

The first difference between elk and reindeer is their physical appearance. Elk, also known as wapiti, are one of the largest species of deer found in North America. They can grow up to six feet tall at the shoulder and have an average weight of around 600-700 pounds. Elk have a reddish-brown coat with a dark mane, short tail, and long legs. They also have large antlers that can span up to five feet across.

On the other hand, reindeer, also known as caribou, are found in the northern hemisphere, particularly in the Arctic and subarctic regions. They are smaller than elk, standing around 3-4 feet at the shoulder and weighing around 150-300 pounds. Reindeer have a grayish-brown coat that is thicker and more matted than elk’s fur, which helps them to survive in colder climates. Also, both male and female reindeer have antlers, but they differ in size and shape. Male reindeer have larger and more ornate antlers, while female reindeer have shorter and simpler antlers.


The second difference between elk and reindeer is their habitat. Elk are mainly found in North America, ranging from Arizona and New Mexico in the south to Canada and Alaska in the north. They prefer open forests and meadows, making the Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and Pacific Northwest their most common habitats.

On the other hand, reindeer are found in far northern parts of Europe, Asia, and North America, particularly in the Arctic tundra region. They can be found in all the northernmost parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, as well as in parts of Canada and Alaska. Reindeer thrive in cold climates and are well adapted to living on the tundra with a diet that mainly consists of lichens, mosses, and other arctic vegetation.


The third difference between elk and reindeer is their behavior. Elk are known to be solitary animals, except during mating season where males will compete for females. They are also active during the day and prefer to rest at night. Elk are herbivorous and feed on various types of vegetation such as grass, shrubs, and herbs.

On the other hand, reindeer are known for their unique and complex social behavior. They are highly social animals that live in herds of dozens to thousands of individuals. They also have a strong herding instinct and will follow each other to move between grazing grounds. Reindeer are also known for their incredible ability to migrate over long distances. They are herbivorous and feed mainly on lichens, mosses, and shrubs that thrive in the tundra environment.


In summary, elk and reindeer, while similar in some ways, have significant differences in their physical appearance, habitat, and behavior. Elk are larger, solitary animals found in North America, while reindeer are smaller, highly social animals found in the Arctic and subarctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Both animals are herbivorous and have unique adaptations that allow them to survive in their respective habitats. Understanding these differences will help you to appreciate and respect these incredible mammals.