Bold Bighorns

by Beverly J. Letchworth | Dec 20, 2021 | 0 comments

Baby Bighorn Sheep was only a few days old, but already he was able to follow along beside his mother. Even when only hours old and weighing just 10 pounds (4.5 kg), he could stand and walk.

Now, as his mother foraged on spring grasses and clover in the alpine region of the Rocky Mountains, Baby Bighorn stayed close by. Their herd of other ewes with their lambs fed nearby, all the time watching for predators.

Bighorn sheep with her lamb. Photo © Brian Wolski/

With their sharp hearing, excellent sense of smell, and wide-set eyes giving them a wide angle of vision, they could detect dangers at a great distance. Still, bears, wolves, and mountain lions could attack and pull down adult sheep. Smaller enemies such as bobcats, foxes, coyotes, even golden eagles, could kill young lambs. But with dozens of ewes on the alert for predators, Baby Bighorn stayed safe in his protective family herd.

As the months passed, Baby Bighorn grew quickly. He learned to navigate rocky cliffs as his mother did. Special hooves and rough soles gave him a natural grip on steep rocks. Bighorns can make seemingly impossible jumps from cliff to cliff and even stand on ledges only 2 inches (5 cm) wide. Baby Bighorn was now no longer a baby, but an agile Young Bighorn.

In the fall, he watched as rams fought each other, using their large curved horns as weapons. Horns could weigh as much as 30 pounds (13.6 kg). Fights usually occurred between males with horns of similar size.

Young Bighorn paid close attention as two rams faced each other, then reared up on heir hind legs and pitched forward at great speed. The crash of horns could be heard a mile away, but the rams’ skulls were bony and thick to absorb the impact. Over and over the rams head-butted. Finally one of them had had enough. He backed off, and the fight, for this time, was over.

At two years of age, Young Bighorn left the protection of his mother. If he had been a female, he would have remained with the family herd of ewes, but now it was time for the young male to be independent. For many months he wandered about, searching for other rams. It was a difficult time, but finally he found a male group to belong to.

A few years passed. Young Bighorn was seven years old and an adult, weighing close to 300 pounds (135 kg). With his large curved horns curled majestically around his face, he was a strong, bold bighorn with grit and skill. He would soon join a herd of females, and, for the first time, seriously challenge another ram with a clashing of horns.

Now as he zigzagged down from a cliff, jumping easily from one rock to the other, Adult Bighorn showed the herd that he was a ram in top form.

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