Oregon FNAWS
Sheep - Sheep History
  • The wild sheep of North America (Ovis) consist of 4 different subspecies (two of which are thinhorns (Ovis dalli) and two bighorns (Ovis canadensis).
  • All of these subspecies have traits of similarity such as seeking rocky, craggy places to call home.
  • The males (rams) have large curling horns that can exceed 40 inches in length and 16 inches in circumference at the base of the horn.
  • The females (ewes) have slender horns that measure about 8 - 12 inches in length and a gestation period of about 180 days after which they will give birth to a single lamb of 8 - 10 pounds.
  • Wild sheep are prone to low reproductive rates but depend on longevity of the herd's animals.
Dall's sheep(Ovis dalli dalli)
Named in honor of the explorer, William H. Dall, Dall's sheep are the white thinhorn sheep of Alaska, the Yukon, the western Northwest Territories and the extreme north western portion of British Columbia. It is believed though uncertain; the striking white coat of the Dall's sheep is thought to protect it from predators during the winter months where sheep spend their time in total darkness. It is believed that predators, such as wolves have a more difficult time seeing the white sheep during this time.
Stone's sheep(Ovis dalli stonei)
Stone's sheep are dark thinhorn sheep that occupy portions of the Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They are named in honor of noted hunter-explorer Andrew J. Stone who collected the first specimen from the headwaters of the Stikine River in 1896. Stone's sheep average somewhat larger in body size than their cousin the Dall's sheep. The coat color and patterns may vary between individuals in the same herd (much like human fingerprints having there own distinction from one person to another). The head is usually lighter than the body, the rump patch is white, and extends above the root of the tail.
Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep(Ovis canadensis canadensis)
Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep are striking animals, with dark brown to light brown hair over most of their bodies, contrasted by a white rump patch, white linings along the rear surfaces of all four legs, and a white muzzle around the nose and lower jaw. The rams have much more massive horns than their northern thinhorn (Ovis dalli) counterparts. Rocky Mountain bighorns are blocky animals, with heavy compact bodies.
Desert Bighorn sheep(Ovis canadensis nelsoni, mexicana, weemsi, cremnobates)
Desert Bighorn sheep have similar coloration as the Rocky Mountain bighorn but are much less blocky and smaller in stature. These traits have enabled them to adapt to their harsh desert environments. Less body hair and fat enable this sheep to lose excess body heat. Smaller body size coupled with a specialized digestive system afford the Desert bighorn the ability to extract the maximum water from their forage since desert environments tend to be short of water.
...Here are a few photos of Bighorn Sheep:
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