Bighorn sheep

The iconic species of the North American mountains


Bighorn sheep, the rugged icons of North America’s mountainous landscapes, including the majestic terrains of the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada, and the Cascade Range, epitomize wilderness and the untamed spirit of the West. Known for their striking, massive curved horns, which can weigh up to 14 kg (30 pounds), bighorn sheep are not just remarkable for their appearance but also for their significant ecological and cultural roles.

The horns of the bighorn sheep are a marvel of nature, growing throughout the life of the males, or rams, and serving as a symbol of status within their social structures. These horns are not just for show; they play a pivotal role in the mating rituals and combat between rams, where clashes of these formidable weapons resonate through the mountains as males vie for dominance and the right to mate. Females, or ewes, also possess horns, though they are smaller and less curved.

Agility and sure-footedness are hallmarks of the bighorn sheep, allowing them to navigate the steep, rocky cliffs of their mountainous homes with remarkable ease. This agility serves as a critical survival skill, enabling them to escape predators and access the sparse vegetation of their high-altitude habitats. Their diet primarily consists of grasses, herbs, and shrubs, making them integral players in the ecological balance of their environments by controlling the growth of vegetation and contributing to the health of alpine meadows.

Bighorn sheep are more than just a part of the mountainous ecosystem; they are deeply embedded in the cultural fabric and spirituality of Indigenous communities across North America. These animals are revered for their strength, resilience, and the sustenance they provide, embodying significant spiritual and cultural symbols for many tribes. Indigenous peoples have long established sustainable hunting practices and ceremonial uses for bighorn sheep, respecting and honoring their presence in the natural world.


Population est.
Official estimate
Official estimate
United States
Official estimate

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No