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BigHorn Sheep

August 22, 2021 2 min read

BigHorn Sheep

The bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) is the wild sheep of North America. The sheep is named because of its large horns up to 14 kg weight. These are not as active as other mountain goats but still can climb the steep landscape that keeps their predators away. The males are called rams, females are called ewes, and the juvenile is lamb. 

Subspecies of Bighorn Sheep:

The recent studies describe that there are three more subspecies of bighorn sheep that are

  • Ovis canadensis canadensis (Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep)

  • Ovis canadensis sierrae (California bighorn sheep)

  • Ovis canadensis nelsoni (Desert bighorn sheep)

Physical Appearance:

Bighorn sheep have muscular bodies with brown fur that is white over the belly, muzzle, and ramps. The eyes are wide and present on the head’s front side. Bighorn sheep have a well-developed smell, vision, and hearing senses.

Outer hooves are modified toenails. The horns are curved. The males typically weigh about 143 kg, and females weigh about 91 kg.

Range of Bighorn Sheep:

Bighorn sheep are in the western regions of North America from southern Canada to Mexico. Their mountainous habitat provides cover from predators. 

Habitat of Bighorn Sheep:

Bighorn sheep inhabit alpine meadows. They prefer the drier slopes as they cannot move in the snow.

Foothill country, grassy mountain slopes, bluffs, rocky cliffs are the habitats of bighorn sheep.

Reproduction and Breeding of Bighorn Sheep:

Rams uses the three courting strategies,

  • Tending 

  • Coursing

  • Blocking 

November is the peak rut season, and at least two lambs are born in May. The rams' lifespan is about 12 years, while ewes live for 14 years.

Diet of Bighorn Sheep:

The diet of bighorn sheep varies according to climate. In colder climates, they eat woody plants like willow and sage. In hot climates, they browse on grasses.

They are ruminants. They have a four-part stomach. They eat large portions of food before retreating to cliffs where they can rechew their food without the risks of predators. Their stomach has a special kind of bacteria that helps the fibers to digest. In addition, the moisture absorbed during food digestion helps them to survive prolonged periods without water. 

Predators of Bighorn Sheep:

Several predators hunt the bighorn sheep of different ages
  • Gray foxes
  • Bobcats
  • Lynxes
  • Grizzly bears
  • Mountain lions

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