Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

There was a time in United States history, when the bighorn sheep numbered as many as two million. But disease and overhunting had reduced their numbers to the mere thousands covering an area from Canada to Mexico. Disease, introduced by domesticated livestock, can to this day create an all-age death rate of 90% in an affected herd. 

Rams butt horns during the mating season. Here’s a short, personal video with a simple, plain narrative about how this man caught on tape one ram who took on 6 others. Here is a fantastic, 12-minute video of bighorn sheep in the wild with bits of information scattered throughout. Here’s a short, joyful video of bighorn sheep lambs at play in the Badlands of South Dakota. Fun.

FunFacts about Bighorn Sheep: (Source)  

  • The bighorn sheep, Ovis canadensis, is a species of sheep native to North America, their ancestors having crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia. (More about the land bridge here.)
  • Bighorn sheep are named for their large horns.
  • At their peak, bighorn sheep reached numbers in the millions.
  • By the 1900s, the bighorn sheep population had diminished to the thousands due primarily to diseases acquired from domestic livestock brought from Europe. 
  • Bighorn sheep are featured in Native American mythology and were among the most admired animals of the Crow People.
  • Family names: Ram, ewe, lamb.
  • Bighorn sheep range from western Canada, the western United States, Baja California and northern Mexico.
  • Scientists currently recognize three sub-species of bighorn sheep: Ovis canadensis, O. dalli, and O. nivicola.
  • The rams have large, distinctively curved horns. The females have horns but these are much smaller and straighter.
  • Size as exemplified by weight: Rams typically weigh anywhere from 58 to 230 kg or 128 to 500 lbs., depending on species.
  • Bighorn sheep live in large herds and don’t follow a single lead ram.
  • Gestation is 6 months with a single lamb being the normal birth. Twins are rare.
  • The state of Colorado is home to the largest population of bighorn sheep.
  • In 1936, the Arizona Boy Scouts launched a campaign to save the bighorn sheep.
  • Two American rivers retain the bighorn sheep name: The Bighorn River and the Little Bighorn River.

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(Photos from Pixabay) 

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32 thoughts on “Bighorn Sheep

  1. I’ve seen some bighorn sheep at the zoo but had no idea that their numbers were so low. It’s shocking that disease can take out 90% of a herd. The photos showing close-ups of the horns are amazing!

  2. That’s sad that a lot of them died off. Their horns are great looking and it’s cool that there seems to be some variety between their horn shapes.

  3. How sad another species is disappearing from our history. I wonder how heavy the horns weighed, certainly were big horned —- strange looking kinda look likethe big horned goats.

  4. Amazing pictures. Loved the video with the ewes cavorting around-so cute! Haven’t seen any in person, only in pictures. Their horns are something else and no wonder they make so much noise when they fight. What a shame on losing so many due to disease and hopefully they’ll survive and not disappear altogether. AZ

  5. I know nothing about horns. What makes the ridges on the horns, and the different colors? They are beautiful animals, although, a bit funny. Imagine, having to walk around with a very noticeable white butt all the time. Almost like a target. – Their nose looks very soft and touchable.

  6. I’ve only seen them at the zoo. We have sheep farms in our county, I think they’re mostly the charolais. The Sheep And Wool festival is coming up the first weekend in May.

    denise from maryland

  7. What saddens me I how many species have gone or are nearly gone from extinction.

    It’s a sad commentary on our alleged civilization.

    • Sandra,
      Though over-hunting has been a problem, for the bighorn sheep the larger issue is the domestic livestock strain of pneumonia they can’t tolerate. And yes, that’s a result of ‘civilization’. There’s good and bad in all of it. But thank goodness there are conservation methods in place. One of the videos shows one of the sheep wearing a tracking-collar, so the herds are monitored in different states. This gives me hope.

      Buckeye Arizona USA

  8. I enjoyed the videos. The sheep are so cute and frisky when they are little. I think they are majestic when they stand with their heads and horns held high. I would not want one of them ramming me at 35 miles per hour.

  9. I have only seen them in zoo’s, but we heard them before we got there because two rams we’re head butting each other! Good thing they have thick skulls.

  10. Such magnificent animals! We were privileged to see some in New Mexico when ascending Sandia Peak on the tram.

  11. I enjoyed the pictures although I admit these Rams/Sheep scare me lol I find them very intimidating…

  12. Never seen any bighorn sheep in the zoo, but they’re amazing! Like the photo of one lone sheep standing on the rocks with the clouds in the background.

  13. The lambs are my favorite. I noticed they also do the head butting in their play. Already ingrained in them.

  14. I have seen these wondrous animals in the Kofa Mountains in Arizona. There is a big herd of them there.
    Also, when I was fishing with my son at Canyon Lake in central Arizona-they cone down to the water to drink. Boy can they travel quickly over those rocky hillsides with amazing agility!

  15. I like the white ones with the curved horns. The picture with the one with the red collar. Makes you think it is a pet.

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