Big Horned Sheep

The Facts

  • Genus/Species: Ovis Canadensis
  • Conservation Status: Low risk, conservation dependent
  • Location: North America

Big Horned Sheep
Big Horned Sheep
Big Horned Sheep
Big Horned Sheep
Big Horned Sheep
Big Horned Sheep

The Scoop

The Sheep with Magnificent Horns

Bighorn sheep can be found in the Rocky Mountains. In warm months, this sheep grazes on mountain slopes. In colder months it moves down to the valleys. Bighorn sheep live in alpine meadows, mountain slopes and foothills. They like areas with rocky slopes that they can climb to evade predators. The males among bighorn sheep are known as bighorn rams. They are famous for their awesome curled horns. The Rocky Mountain bighorn ram's horns can weigh 30 pounds- which is more than the weight of all the other bones in his body together. Females too have horns, but they are much smaller. The bighorn is a good climber and jumper. Its hooves are hard around the outside and soft on the inside, which is helpful for traction on slippery rocks.

Bighorn rams can be around 6 feet tall and can weigh up to 225 pounds. Bighorn sheep browse on grasses and clover in the warm months. In colder months, they eat woody plants like willow and sage. Bighorn sheep in desert areas often eat brushy plants like holly and cactus. They bring up their food after swallowing it and chew it as cud before swallowing it again for final digestion. 

Two hundred years ago, bighorn sheep were widespread throughout the Western US, Canada and northern Mexico. However, their population has decline due to hunting, ranching competition and diseases. Conservation efforts however, have enabled bighorn sheep to make a comeback and they are not presently endangered.


Did You Know? 

  • Horn-butting battles between male Bighorns have been known to go on for over 24 hours.
  • Bighorn sheep can use ledges only five centimeters wide for footholds, and can jump as far as six meters from ledge to ledge.
  • The circumference of the horn at its base is an incredible 13 inches.
  • Bighorn sheep have outstanding eyesight. Their keen eyesight allows them to detect movement and objects up to a kilometer away, giving them time to climb up or down a steep incline to safety.


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