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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 16, 2021

Snow Sheep: 19 Facts You Won't Believe!

Read further to learn some fun snow sheep facts including taxonomy, conservation, and range.

Do you love learning about cool new animals? Then the snow sheep is just for you! Native to the eastern, and central mountain ranges of Russia, the snow sheep is a cold-weather animal that is known by the scientific name Ovis nivicola. These sheep are characterized by their thick brown/white coats, big horns, and special hooves that allow them to live in cold, steep, mountainous terrains. These sheep are closely related to the Bighorn (native to North America), and they possess similar qualities such as big curved horns, brown fur, and mountainous habitats. There are a variety of subspecies of the Ovis nivicola, including the isolated Putorana snow sheep (Ovis n borealis), the Kamchatka snow sheep (Ovis n nivicola), the Okhotsk snow sheep (Ovis n alleni), the Chukotsk snow sheep (Ovis n tschuktschorum), the Koryak Snow sheep (Ovis n koriakorum) and the Yakutian snow sheep (Ovis n lydekkeri), the most popular of which is the Kamchatka snow sheep. These sheep have evolved over the years to develop special adaptations that allow them to survive harsh winters (a thick fur coat) and escape predators (hooves that allow them to access steep hills and short ledges). Read further to discover the snow sheep's interesting world and check out our bontebok facts and tarpan facts pages!

Snow Sheep Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a snow sheep?

The snow sheep or the bighorn sheep is a ruminant belonging to the Bovidae family. Other ruminants include the giraffe and the water buffalo.

What class of animal does a snow sheep belong to?

The snow sheep is a mammal belonging to the Bovidae family and Ovis genus.

How many snow sheep are there in the world?

Snow sheep have an impressive population distribution across 310685.5 sq mi (500,000 sq km). It has been estimated that 90,000 Snow sheep exist today.

Where does a snow sheep live?

Snow sheep have an impressive population distribution and are native to the mountain ranges of Russia (eastern and central Siberia). Some other animals that are native to Russia are the Siberian tigers.

What is a snow sheep's habitat?

The snow sheep habitat is cold, foresty, and mountainous. They live in steep, boreal forest terrain at a maximum altitude of 7000 ft (2000 m). They are native to Russia and are found in the regions of Siberia, Chukotka, and the Kamchatka peninsula.

Who do snow sheep live with?

Snow sheep live in herds. There are three different types of herds. One herd consists of mother sheep and their young, one of the adolescent males, and one of mature, adult males.

How long does a snow sheep live?

The snow sheep lives to a maximum age of 18 years.

How do they reproduce?

Snow sheep are viviparous in nature, which means that they give birth to live young. The breeding season for these sheep is from November to December. The pregnancy period ranges from 160-180 days and only one lamb is born each pregnancy. Lambs are born in secluded and high-altitude areas to protect them from hunters and predators.

What is their conservation status?

Snow sheep have been classified as Least Concern by the IUCN.

Snow Sheep Fun Facts

What do snow sheep look like?

Snow sheep have a dark, brown body and large horns and hence, are often likened to the North American Dall sheep and the bighorn sheep. They are covered with brown hair which slowly becomes lighter and lighter throughout the year until it develops a gray or white tinge. They also have a white forehead and a distinctive patch on the base of their tails. The Kamchatka snow sheep (found in the Kamchatka Peninsula) has a white underbelly. Snow sheep also have large, smooth, curved horns. These horns are often a light brown or amber color. The maximum observed horn length of a snow sheep has been recorded to be 46.45 in (111.8 cm) in length.

The snow sheep is characterized by its brown/ white body and curved horns.
*Please note: This is an image of Ovis aries from the same genus as the snow sheep. If you have an image of the snow sheep, please let us know at [email protected].

How cute are they?

Snow sheep are not considered to be cute, but they are considered to be very pleasing to look at. Their dark bodies and amber-colored horns look very majestic and beautiful amongst snowcapped mountains and forests.

How do they communicate?

Snow sheep make use of a variety of sounds to communicate with one another. They use a combination of grunts and bleats (the sound Ba) to communicate with other members of the herd.

How big is a snow sheep?

Snow sheep have a length ranging from 53.54-74.01 in (136-188 cm), a weight ranging from 123.4-231.48 lb (56-105 kg) (males), and 72.7-149.9 lb (33-68 kg) (females). This makes them almost the same size as the mountain goat.

How fast can a snow sheep run?

The exact speed of this species is unknown, but they are known to be quick and nimble. From observations of other subspecies of sheep (such as the Koryak snow sheep in the north), it can be speculated that the snow sheep can run at speeds of 20 mph (32 kph).

How much does a snow sheep weigh?

The male snow sheep weight ranges from 123.4-231.48 lb (56-105 kg), whereas female snow sheep weight ranges from 72.7-149.9 lb (33-68 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

The males of this species are called rams and the females are called ewes.

What would you call a baby snow sheep?

Baby snow sheep are referred to as lambs.

What do they eat?

Snow sheep are herbivores and their diet mainly consists of grass and shrubs. However, these sheep also eat moss, lichens, mushrooms, and various fungi.

Are they dangerous?

No, this species is not dangerous if they are not provoked. However, if threatened, snow sheep have the ability to cause serious injuries with their big, strong horns. However, males engage in combat with each other and smash their large horns into one another, which can lead to severe injuries, and even death amongst these animals.

Would they make a good pet?

Snow sheep are wild sheep and require cold temperatures and a mountainous habitat to thrive. Hence, it is not advisable to keep members of this species as pets.

Did you know...

Animals like the snow leopard, Siberian tiger, snow sheep, and antelopes live in steep mountainous terrain and alpine regions where it can drop to negative temperatures in the winter season. All these animals have adaptations that allow them to comfortably survive in the harsh winter, and to move quickly and accurately on steep cliffs and ledges.

Snow sheep often find themselves falling prey to wolves and wolverines in the region.

There is a large variety of snow sheep with a similar description that exists today. This includes the Kamchatka snow sheep (Ovis n nivicola) with a population of 12000 sheep in the Kamchatka peninsula, the Putorana snow sheep (Ovis n borealis) which is a small sheep population in the central Siberian Putoran mountains, the Okhotsk snow sheep (Ovis n alleni) with a population of 11000 sheep, the Chukotsk snow sheep (Ovis n tschuktschorum) with a population of 3000 sheep, the Koryak Snow sheep (Ovis n koriakorum) with a population of 5000 sheep and the Yakutia snow sheep (Ovis n lydekkeri) with a population of 55000 sheep.

Closely related to the North American bighorn sheep, Siberian snow sheep (Ovis nivicola) have big, brown horns that curve as they grow older. The snow sheep male or ram has large, very curled horns by the age of seven. The snow sheep female or the ewe has smaller, less curved horns. The size of these horns is seen as proof of rank amongst these Russian Snow Sheep, and the bigger the horns, the higher the rank.

The scientific name of the Snow sheep (Ovis nivicola) has been derived from the Latin words Ovis, which means sheep, and Nivicola which means snow dwelling.

Rams (males) and Ewes (females) do not travel together. Rams travel in groups of other rams and ewes travel in groups of other ewes. In fact, a ram and a ewe of this species only socialize during the breeding season to mate and produce offspring. Once the offspring are born, the ram and the ewe return to their own herds. The offspring remains with the mother.

This species and its subfamily are native to the Russian mountain ranges and occur in the eastern and central parts of Siberia, the Kamchatka peninsula (home to the indigenous Koryak), Okhotsk, and so on. The snow sheep can be found only in Russia. It is often confused with the North American Bighorn sheep found in Canada and the USA.

Are snow sheep endangered?

No, snow sheep are not endangered due to their stable populations. However, snow sheep, especially the Putorana snow sheep (Ovis n borealis) are commonly hunted. Fortunately, this illegal hunting has not significantly impacted the snow sheep population. Although the population of the Kamchatka snow sheep (Ovis n nivicola) and the Yakutian snow sheep (Ovis n lydekkeri) have declined since the '70s, the Putorana snow sheep population has increased.

What adaptations do snow sheep have?

Snow sheep live in cold, mountainous, steep terrain that has the potential of reaching freezing temperatures of - 86 F(-30 C) during the winter. As a result, they have evolved to have a very thick coat of fur that allows them to survive and be protected during the harsh winter of the Russian mountains. In addition to this, snow sheep have special hooves that allow them to maintain balance and grip on very steep terrain and short ledges that are less than 1.9 in (5 cm) in width. This allows them to remain safe and out of harm's way. This species is also extremely nimble and quite agile, allowing it to traverse bumpy and uneven terrain quickly without falling.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our Dall sheep facts, or Merino sheep facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable snow sheep coloring pages.

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