In Yellowstone, Bighorn sheep are most likely to be seen on the cliffs between Gardiner and Mammoth, in the northern Yellowstone River valley and along Dunraven Pass. Learn all about them below!
Like their name suggests, male big horn sheep, are characterized by their big, curved horns. The size of their horns influences their place in the social structure.
Female bighorn sheep also grow horns, but they are much smaller.
Male bighorn sheep are called rams, and females are called ewes.
During mating season, rams fight head-on, at speeds up to 40 miles per hour, to prove dominance. This is less destructive than it sounds, as there are two layers of bone above the brain that act as a shock absorber.
Horns consist of an inner portion, which is an extension of the skull, and an outer portion, which is made specialized hair follicles, similar to a human's fingernails. They are never shed like antlers are, and grow throughout the animals lifetime.
Bighorn sheep will occasionally file down or break off their horns, a process called "brooming", it is thought to help prevent blind spots.
Ewes' horns grow by the time they are four years old, and rams' horns grow and curl beside their face by the time they are eight years old.
A ram's horns alone can weigh up to 30 pounds! That is 8-12% of its body weight. Imagine carrying that much weight on your head!
Bighorn sheep have specialized hooves and rough soles that allow them to grip as them climb up and down steep cliffs.
Join Nomadic by Nature on a backpacking trip in Yellowstone this summer, and learn all about the wildlife that calls this place home!
Featured Trip: Black Canyon of the Yellowstone
This is Nomadic By Nature’s earliest backpacking trip in Yellowstone — while most trails lie under a blanket of snow, Black Canyon of the Yellowstone remains mostly snow-free because of its low elevation. As we hike along the Yellowstone River, you will gain perspective of how wild the canyon really is.
This region is home to big wildlife — big horn sheep, elk, deer, bison, birds of prey, and the possibility of grizzly bear, to name a few. Highlights include a raging and untouched river, amazing geology, waterfalls, and ever-present wildlife — all combine for a powerful experience in the World’s First National Park.