Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep are also called mountain sheep. They are part of the cattle, goat, and sheep family. Sheep have the ability to climb and jump.

What does a bighorn sheep look like?

Male bighorn sheep are called rams. They stand about 3 feet tall and are 5 to 6 feet long. They weigh about 200 to 300 pounds. Females are called ewes. Ewes are smaller than rams.

Bighorn sheep have excellent eyesight. Their fur is gray, brown, or tan. Their underbelly, rear end, and eye patches are light colored. In the summer, they shed the top level of their fur. Their horns are brown color and grow throughout their life. As rams grow old, their horns curl. Bighorn sheep have a muscular body with a very thick neck.
Their hooves are made for mountain climbing. Bighorn sheep follow narrow trails over mountainsides and steep slopes. Bighorn are also good swimmers.
Ewes have one baby in the spring. Baby sheep are called lambs.
What do bighorn sheep eat?

Bighorn sheep eat grass. They get their water from mountain pools or by eating snow. They feed in early morning, at midday, and in the evening. 

Where can I find a bighorn sheep?

In the summer, bighorn sheep go to the high mountain slopes. In the winter, they return to the foothills at the bottom of the mountains. Bighorns are found on high, rugged mountain slopes. You often see them on cliffs and wooded canyons.

In spring, males and females move in separate bands to the high mountains. In fall, the rams join bands of ewes. In the winter, they all group together.
Bighorn sheep are found in the mountain ranges of southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico northward through Idaho and Montana and on into British Columbia.
Who are the friends and enemies of a bighorn sheep?
Bighorn sheep have many enemies such as cougars, golden eagles, wolves, coyotes, bears, bobcats, and lynx. On cliffs, adult bighorns can easily escape all but the cougars. Golden eagles attack young lambs whenever they find them unprotected.
Disease, hunting, and overgrazing of livestock have pushed the bighorn sheep into a few mountain preserves. Notable herds do still roam the mountain slopes of Yellowstone and Glacier national parks.

More Information


Note: All photographs were taken with a digital camera in Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado), Hells Canyon (Idaho), and Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) during July and August, 1999. Pictures also came from Glacier National Park (Montana/Canada) 2001.


Developed by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 6/99. Update4/02.