Bighorn sheep

Ovis canadensis

TAXONOMY

Ovis canadensis Shaw, 1804, Mountains on Bow River, Alberta, Canada.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Mouflon d'Amerique; German: Dickhornschaf; Spanish: Carnero de la Canada, borrego cimarron.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length is 60-77 in (153-195 cm) in males and 49-60 in (124-153 cm) in females. Maximum weights are 300 lb (137 kg) in males and 200 lb (91 kg) in females, but usually 160-211 lb (73-96 kg) and 105-154 lb (48-70 kg), respectively. Males have massive horns curling round and forward. Color ranges from reddish brown to very dark brown. Undersides, back of legs, rump patch, and muzzle are white.

DISTRIBUTION

Mountains of western North America south to desert ranges of the southwest United States and northern Mexico. Former range was more extensive.

HABITAT

Mountains, foothills, badlands, with cliffs for escape.

BEHAVIOR

Live in small groups of two to nine, with adult males usually separate.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Eat a wide range of grasses, herbs, and shrubs.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygamous. Mating takes place in autumn and gestation lasts about 174 days. Females first mate aged two and a half years, males not usually before ages seven or eight. Males establish dominance prior to the rut by displaying and head clashing.

CONSERVATION STATUS

May have numbered one to two million during the nineteenth century, but much lower than that now. Numbers overall are stable and the species is classified as Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent. O. c. weemsi is Critically endangered, O. c. cremno-bates is Endangered, and O. c. mexicana is Vulnerable.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS Hunted for meat and trophies. ♦

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