Bighorn Sheep

(Ovis canadensis)




Facts about this animal

The Bighorn sheep is a stocky-bodied, large sheep with relatively long, slender legs, a conspicuous white rump patch, and (in males) massive, forward-curling horns. The head-body length in males is 153 to 195 cm and 124 to 153 in females. Males weigh from 57 to 137 kgs, and females from 56 to 91 kg. Weight depends on locality. The tail is very short, only about 7 to 13 cm.


The coat colour is reddish brown to dark chocolate, with a white muzzle, rump patch, hind parts of legs, and belly. There's no neck ruff. A blackish-brown stripe extends forwards from the tail over the rump patch. Both sexes have horns, but male horns are larger, longer and more massive. Mean horn length is 90 cm in adult males and 26 cm in adult females.

Did you know?
that, in many areas, most conservation measures applied to bighorns have been in the area of habitat management? Bighorns need open grassy meadows adjacent to steep slopes and cliffs. Due to fire suppression and forest protection, considerable bighorn habitat has been lost. Management strategies have therefore turned from population control through hunting, to habitat improvement through timber harvest and/or prescribed fire in former bighorn ranges. Control of livestock grazing within bighorn sheep habitat has become a more recently used tool to preserve habitat and bighorn populations. (Reference: Northern State University: The Natural Source)


Name (Scientific) Ovis canadensis
Name (English) Bighorn Sheep
Name (French) Mouflon de Roches, Mouflon d'Amérique, Mouflon Canadien
Name (German) Amerikanisches Dickhornschaf
Name (Spanish) Borrego cimarrón
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Richard Giddins



Range Canada, Mexico, USA. Mainly in the Rocky Mountains, but also in some desert areas. Present distribution is much reduced.
Habitat They primarily inhabit mountainous or broken, remote and treeless terrain. They avoid dense forests.
Wild population Since 1960 Bighorn sheep have increased in numbers, but their population levels are still low when compared with estimated numbers before European settlement. IUCN (1997) gives the following figures for the rarer subspecies: O. c. cremnobates: less than 2,500 O. c. weemsi: possibly 500 O. c. mexicana): probably less than 2,000
Zoo population 159 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Bighorn Sheep


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Requirement 73 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Peter J. Carboni

Why do zoos keep this animal

Except for some populations, the bighorn sheep goat is not an endangered species. Zoos in North America and Europe keep them mainly for educational reasons in the context of Rocky Mountains exhibit, or beacuase it is the North American equivalent to the mouflon or argali.