Wednesday, November 12, 2008

:: u n z e e n :: Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep


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A Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep with head lowered
Photograph by James L. Amos
Male Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep meet in the fall to battle—using crunching head-first blows—for the right to mate.
Photograph by James L. Amos
Bighorn males, called rams, are famous for their large, curled horns. These impressive growths are a symbol of status and a weapon used in epic battles across the Rocky Mountains. Fighting for dominance or mating rights, males face each other, rear up on their hind legs, and hurl themselves at each other in charges of some 20 miles (32 kilometers) an hour. The resounding clash of horns can be heard echoing through the mountains as the confrontation is repeatedâ€"sometimes for many hoursâ€"until one ram submits and walks away. The animal's thick, bony skull usually prevents serious injury.

A Rocky Mountain bighorn ram's horns can weigh 30 pounds (14 kilograms)â€"more than all the bones in his body combined. Females (ewes) also have horns, but they are of smaller size.

Rocky Mountain bighorns inhabit the mountains from Canada south to New Mexico. They are relatives of goats, and have balance-aiding split hooves and rough hoof bottoms for natural grip. These attributes, along with keen vision, help them move easily about rocky, rugged mountain terrain.

Fast Facts

Type: Mammal
Diet: Herbivore
Average lifespan in the wild: 6 to 15 years
Size: 5 to 6 ft (1.5 to 1.8 m)
Weight: 117 to 279 lbs (53 to 127 kg)
Group name: Herd
Protection status: Endangered
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
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