Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis)
Bighorns are the largest of all North American wild sheep.
Adult rams weigh up to 135 kilograms (300 pounds), but adult ewes are much smaller, averaging 70 kilograms (150 pounds).
Bighorn sheep are brown to greyish brown in colour, with light underparts and an obvious, light rump patch. Muzzle is white.
Bighorn rams have distinctive, large, spiralled horns. Ewes and young rams have spike-like, curved horns.
All bighorn sheep have soft hooves with hard outer rims that give them good footing on precarious ledges.
The two parts of a bighorn's hoof are not independently movable. Thus, bighorns are not as agile as mountain goats on difficult
terrain, though they can move quickly over rocky mountain slopes when alarmed.
Bighorn sheep populations range from the southwest Alberta and west-central British Columbia alpine regions east through
Montana and south through California and New Mexico to northern Mexico.
Bighorns spend their summers high in the alpine zone on grass-covered slopes.
In winter, bighorn sheep may migrate a considerable distance to reach south or southwest-facing slopes where snow cover
Bighorn sheep graze on grasses and forbs. They may also browse on alpine willows.
They make frequent use of mineral or salt licks.
The rut occurs from November to December.
Lambs are born the following spring.
Bighorn sheep are classified as Secure in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:
See details in the Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations. To view the guide online or to order a printed copy, visit
the My Wild Alberta website at:
The eyesight of bighorn sheep is acute; they can detect movement over a kilometre (0.62 miles) away.
Skip to breadcrumb trail
Updated: May 18, 2010