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From our library of things you should know about the Arctic

Snowshoe - Shovel - Paddle Feet

Caribou and reindeer have large special hooves with four "toes" on each foot. These provide a number of benefits in their harsh Arctic environment.

1. The toes spread out wide to act like snowshoes - distributing the animal's weight so that it can "float" over snow, soft ice, muskeg and wetlands without sinking in.

2. The sharp-edged hooves easily break and clear the snow when caribou dig for food. The name caribou comes from the Micmac Indian word "xalibu," meaning "the pawer".

3. Large feet make good paddles. Caribou are very strong swimmers and often have to cross wide rushing rivers or thaw lakes that block their migration path.

Caribou make a characteristic clicking sound when they move, but this does not come from their hooves, but rather from the tendons slipping over the bones in their feet. It's a good thing they aren't predators - how could they sneak up on anything when they "click" with every step?

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