Bovidae (antelope, cattle, gazelles, goats, sheep and relatives)
Habitat & Range
The bighorn sheep generally inhabits alpine meadows, grassy mountain slopes, and foothill country near rugged, rocky cliffs and bluffs. Since they cannot move through deep snow, bighorn sheep prefer drier slopes, where annual snowfall is less than 60 inches per year.
Bighorn sheep range in color from light brown to dark, chocolate brown with a white rear end. Adult males (rams) weigh between 125 and 300 pounds while females (ewes) weigh between 75 and 200 pounds. Males and females can be distinguished by the size of their horns. Females have smaller, slender horns while males grow enormous, curved horns. The horns of a male can measure over 30 inches long and weigh as much as 30 pounds.
Although their diet varies according to habitat, bighorn sheep generally graze on various grasses and shrubs, seeking minerals at natural salt licks.
Reproduction & Lifespan
Breeding season (rut) typically begins in early autumn and peaks in November. The gestation period is 5 to 6 months and results in 1 to 2 lambs, often born in May.
The lifespan of a bighorn sheep is estimated at 9 to 12 years for a male and 10 to 14 years for a female.
Fantastic Fact Reckless Running
During rut, rival males will charge each other at speeds reaching up to 20 miles per hour. Just before impact, they raise their bodies and ram each other at a downward angle, resulting in forces that can reach 1800 pounds. The skull of a bighorn sheep contains a double layer of bone that absorbs the shock of impact, protecting the brain.
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