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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Bighorn Sheep: Facts You Won't Believe!

The beautiful bighorn sheep ewe is often confused for its relative the goat due to the lack of bighorns.

Bighorns belong to species of sheep in areas of North America and some parts of California, commonly well-known for their large horn. The horn helps in increasing the beauty of their species. Sheep horns can weigh up to 300 pounds. The scientific name of this sheep is Ovis Canadensis. They have tan skin with white and brownish fur. Rams, male sheep, are particularly known for their large spiral horns, which can grow throughout their lives. Female sheep are generally known as ewes, have straighter horns, that grow up to 10 inches in length, than Rocky Mountains sheep and up to 17 inches for desert ewes. Baby sheep are known as lambs when less than one year of age. Male sheep live up to 12 years and female sheep nearly 14 years. They are herbivores and generally depend on grasses, shrubs, and forbs. The mating season is between October to December. The female bighorn gives birth to one lamb at a time in one year.

In the 19th century, the bighorn sheep population in America was evaluated to be between 1.5 to 2 million, but recent evaluation shows fewer than 70,000. In the late 18th century, hunting competition from livestock grazing and diseases devasted sheep populations. An entire subspecies of sheep were extinct by the year 1925, but all is well that ends well, and fortunately, through transplanting, the sheep were re-established. The bighorn sheep range of the rams is highest in the state of Montana. The conservation status is the least concern.

Bighorn Sheep Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a bighorn sheep?

It's a myth that these wild sheep are dumb and stupid creatures, where in fact, they are brilliant creatures with an impressive memory and sharp recognition skills. Desert sheep are also more active. Sometimes ewes (female sheep) can be confused with goats because of their short horns.

What class of animal does a bighorn sheep belong to?

They belong to the Mammal class and Bovidae family with the scientific name of Ovis canadensis. The scientific name of desert bighorn sheep is Ovis canadensis nelsoni.

How many bighorn sheep are there in the world?

Areas of North America covered a large number. The population of sheep there is fewer than 70,000. The Sierra Nevada sheep and peninsular sheep populations each number about 600.

Where does a bighorn sheep live?

They are generally very active and are often found in the rocky mountain areas of North America, California, ranging from New Mexico, northward across the western United States, and into Canada. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are very speedy and hence use their hooves for balancing on the boulders. It also gives more traction because of their roughness which is one of the interesting facts about bighorn sheep.

What is a bighorn sheep's habitat?

They historically have steep mountainous habitats which means that they generally range in the mountain regions which defines the terrain rising above the foothills. The bighorn has three living subspecies. If we go through the facts representing the habitat then these sheep own ledges (sometimes only two inches (5cm) wide) which provide them cover from predators such as coyotes, golden eagles, mountain lions, bears, and Canada lynx. These wild sheep take a leap from one ledge to another with great accuracy and speed and can jump across spans as wide as six meters (20 feet) even in desert regions.

Who do bighorn sheep live with?

Sheep groups break down into two categories ewes and rams. Rams are generally males, and ewes are females. Rams tend to live in groups consisting only of bachelors, while female sheep live in packs in the desert and on grass both.

How long does a bighorn sheep live?

The longevity and survival of sheep depend on population status. On average, most sheep live for more than ten years.

How do they reproduce?

Sheep are seasonal breeders. A ewe commonly produces one lamb per year. During mating season, the bighorn sheep rams (male sheep) engage in and compete for the opportunity to mate with the bighorn sheep ewe, sometimes exhibiting fantastic head-knocking bouts. Eventually, lambs are born after a gestation period of roughly four to six months.

What is their conservation status?

According to wildlife departments reports, they are of Least Concern.

Bighorn Sheep Fun facts

Below, we have answered your questions through the desert bighorn sheep facts. You can also find some bighorn sheep facts for kids.

What do bighorn sheep look like?

The bighorn is so-called for the large and beautifully curved horns on its head.

They belong to the sheep species and are closely related to goats. They look cute, bold, and attractive at the same time. Their skin color is a little tan and has brown fur with a white nose and a patch. They have hooves that are split and are very helpful for balancing in tricky situations.

How cute are they?

Young sheep and sheep fights are the two primary things that are extremely cute and interesting to watch and spot. the brown and white fur and large horns can be considered one of the cutest parts of the sheep. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and desert bighorn sheep hold the beauty of sheep and the individual can behold them for hours and notice their activities too, which in itself holds another level of cuteness.

How do they communicate?

Every living thing in this universe survives through communication. Communication is the basic necessity for understanding each other and expressing thoughts. Animals have their own languages and gestures to express their feelings and words. The Bighorn has its own way of communication. They mainly communicate socially with the help of body postures and scent. Bighorn sheep don't vocalize much, they usually do while seeking another animal, for example, ewes seeking their lambs. Wild sheep commonly make a coughing sound for giving an alarm to other sheep.

How big is a bighorn sheep?

If we compare bighorns with mountain goats then male mountain goats are 65 inches in length and stand at around 40 inches tall. Female mountain goats are 56 inches in length and around 35 inches tall at the shoulder.  They weigh up to 300 pounds (140kg).

How fast can a bighorn sheep run?

Domestic sheep are generally faster than others. Sheep are so well balanced that they can even stand on ledges that are only two inches or five cm wide! Mountain goats are prominent because of their jumps and speed. it's very interesting to read that they can jump 20 feet (6 meters) and can go up on a mountain at a brisk 15 mph (24kph). Mountain goats are famous for their climbing skills.

How much does a bighorn sheep weigh?

Rams male sheep and female sheep have different weights and sizes. The male sheep are bold and weigh between 128-135 pounds, and on the other hand, females weigh between 375- 201 pounds. Some interesting facts about sheep are that the horns can weigh around 30 pounds (14 kilograms). Their horns are one of the interesting body parts and they also use them for their safety from predators. Older wild rams have massive horns that can be more than 3 feet (0.9m) long with a circumference of over a foot (0.3m) at the base.

What are their male and female names of the species?

The female bighorn sheep species are commonly known as ewes, and the males are known as rams. Rams are generally bold and active.

What would you call a baby bighorn sheep?

The young bighorn sheep are known as lambs and they are just as cute as their name. Their cute and soft nature and look make them more attractive and usually, people found them alluring and interesting to look at and glimpse purposes.

What do they eat?

The bighorn sheep diet generally differentiates according to the place, population, and weather. If we have a look at the bighorn sheep predators then they are more in number. Their diet depends on where they are and what weather they are facing. In warmer months they usually depend on grasses, clover, and sedges. During colder days they generally depend on woody plants like willow and sage. Focusing on desert sheep they often eat plants such as holly and cacti.

Are they dangerous?

They are wild sheep and are part of rough rocky and desert ranges so it's quite obvious that they have adapted to the wild and are hence considered dangerous. They don't attack humans generally but there are chances that they can. One could consider their massive horns and keep a safe distance. There are many types of sheep, desert Bighorn sheep (scientific name: Ovis canadensis nelsoni), domestic sheep, and Bighorns, and all of them are considered fairly dangerous.

Would they make a good pet?

No, it's not advisable to consider them as a good pet. Sheep can't follow a single leader and also doesn't have an explicit or direct dominance hierarchy. Bighorns are considered in this category because the fact is that sheep herds are logically united, so there must be some social system to keep the herds intact as they move around.

What are bighorn sheep horns made of?

Ovis canadensis nelsoni and Ovis canadensis horns usually are made of keratin. Both human nails and animal hooves are also made of keratin — a fast-growing substance. Ram's horns usually grow until they are old and fully mature. Desert bighorn sheep and mountain wild sheep's horns both weigh 30 pounds, which is not common in other animals like goats and deer. The use of horns is mostly used during a bighorn sheep fight.

Why are bighorn sheep endangered?

The conservation status is least concerned with wild sheep. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (Federal ESA's overseer) determined that peninsular bighorn sheep are in danger of extinction in parts of their ranges due to disease and exploitation, inadequate lamb recruitment, habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation by urban and commercial development. If we focused on population, then there are less than 70,000 wild Bighorns in North America. If we talk about the peninsular bighorn and Nevada sheep, then their populations are at about 600 each, which is very few compared to their previous numbers.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including zebras, or mountain zebras.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our bighorn sheep coloring pages.

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