NatureMapping Animal Facts for Kids

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis)
Also know as Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
Species Code: OVCA

distribution map

What they look like:

Bighorn Sheep are large mammals that are relatives of goats. They have short brown fur, a white muzzle and rump patch. They have split hooves which aid in balance and rough hoof bottoms for natural grip. Their sure footing help them move easily around rugged mountain terrain.

The male Bighorn sheep is called a ram and can be recognized by his massive brown horns. The horns curl back over the ears, down, and up past the cheeks. By the time a ram reaches 7 or 8 years of age, he can have a set of horns with a full curl.

Bighorn sheep photo by Natures Pics

Ewes, the females, are smaller than the rams and have shorter, smaller horns that never exceed half a curl.

Weight: avg. 90 kg or 198 lbs.

Length with tail: 150 to 180 cm (59 to 71 in)

Where they live:
Rocky Mountain bighorns inhabit the mountains from Canada south to New Mexico. Bighorn inhabit alpine meadows, grassy mountain slopes and foothill country near rugged, rocky cliffs and bluffs.

Bighorn sheep are found in central and eastern Washington.

Click the range map to learn more about the distribution of Bighorn Sheep in Washington.

Bighorn sheep photo by Natures Pics

What they eat: Bighorn Sheep are herbivores. They primarily graze on grasses, sedges and forbs.

Behavior: Bighorn sheep are gregarious animals, forming herds of over 100 individuals. Small groups of 8-10 are more common. Mature males usually live apart from females and young during most of the year.

Bighorn have excellent eyesight, which helps them in jumping and gaining narrow mountain footholds.


In the spring, lambs are born up on high ledges protected from predators such as coyotes, wolves, and cougars. They lambs are vulnerable to the golden eagles which target lambs. Mothers nurse the young for four to six months.

Did you know?

  • Females are called "ewes" and males are called "rams"
  • Horn size is a symbol of rank. Male horns can weigh as much as 30 lbs.
  • Bighorns are known for head-to-head combat between males.
  • They can live up to 15 years in the wild
  • A group of bighorns is called a Herd
Bighorn sheep photo by Natures Pics

Bighorn Sheep
photo by Natures Pics

More information:

Ovis canadensis Information - Animal Diversity Web

Bighorn Sheep (DesertUSA)

More photos: Bighorn sheep Photos

Video: Watch Bighorn go head-to-head in this video

Animal silhouettes available to purchase »

Photos: Natures Pics

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