Desert Bighorn Sheep Facts!

Desert Bighorn Sheep
Desert Bighorn Sheep (NPS Photo by Andrew Cattoir). Image credit: Lake Mead Imagery cc2.0

Desert Bighorn Sheep Facts!

Desert Bighorn Sheep
Desert Bighorn Sheep (NPS Photo by Andrew Cattoir). Image credit: Lake Mead Imagery cc2.0

Desert bighorns are stocky-bodied sheep similar in size to mule deer, about 3 feet (0.9 meters) tall and 5 feet (1.5 meters) long for males (rams), and slightly smaller for females (ewes). They prefer steep slopes in mountainous areas, probably because they can easily climb the slopes to escape predators. These sheep have unique concave hooves that are sharp on the edges and elastic in the middle, making it possible to climb with agility. They also have excellent eyesight that helps them to spot predators, such as coyotes, mountain lions and wolves.

A pair of Desert Bighorn sheep feeding. Image credit: M. Dolly cc2.0

These animals are very well-adapted to an arid environment. They can survive without water for long periods, hydrating themselves from their food and any rainwater that gets collected in temporary rock pools. Their body temperature can safely fluctuate several degrees. In the summer, they rest during the day in the shade of trees and caves, and forage at night when it’s cooler. Their diet is made up of a variety of vegetation, including grass, flowers, twigs, leaves and even cacti!

Two rams square off
Two rams square off. Photo Credit: P.Gower/USFWS cc2.0

For most of the year, desert bighorn sheep live in separate groups of ewes and rams, but they gather together during the breeding season. Males fight for females by charging and crashing their massive horns together. The fight goes on until one ram gives up. Both males and females grow horns. The older males have very big and impressive horns that are curled and over 3 feet (0.9 meters) long. Females’ horns are not as long and don’t tend to curl.

Desert Bighorn Sheep are featured in the following book:
25 Desert Animals

The YouTube video playlist below contains videos about Desert Bighorn Sheep. Details of the videos featured are underneath.

The Playlist:

  1. Bam Bam, the Bighorn Sheep Attacks Toyota 4Runner : “RAMbunctious” by Mark James
  2. Zion National Park Desert Bighorn Sheep by John Smith 1


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