Posted by: cherylyoung | May 6, 2012

BC Bighorn Sheep make a marvelous canvas for the lucky photograper who is fortunate to get one.

BC Bighorn Sheep make a marvelous canvas for

the lucky photograper who is fortunate to get one.

 The BC Bighorn  Sheep has massive curled horns

that together may weigh over 13 kg in the male can

 be found in the snowfields of the Canadian Rockies,

the desert floor of Death Valley, California, and from

Alaska all the way to northern Mexico is very agile,

second only to mountain goats in its ability to climb

 steep terrain may engage in a head-butting battle

to establish  dominance over another ram.

 

The echoing crash can often be heard over a

 kilometre away Description Back to top The wild

 or mountain, sheep is a stocky, hoofed mammal,

about one and a half times as large as a domestic

 sheep.

North American wild sheep are related both to

 domestic sheep Ovis aries, which were imported

 from Europe by early settlers, and to the native

sheep of Asia.

It is thought that about half a million years ago a

primitive sheep similar to the present-day Marco

Polo sheep of central Asia migrated into North

America via the Bering land bridge, which formerly

connected the regions now known as Russia and

Alaska.

When the great glaciers of the ice age inched south

from polar centres, those animals became isolated

 in two ice-free areas, or refugia, one in central

Alaska and the other south of the Columbia and

 Snake rivers, in the United States.

Sheep in the Alaska refugium evolved into the

slender-horned Dall sheep Ovis dalli, those farther

 south into the heavy-horned Rocky Mountain and

desert bighorns Ovis canadensis.

As the ice sheet retreated 10 000 or 20 000 years

ago, the northern sheep expanded their range east

to the Mackenzie Mountains and south to the Peace

River of northern British Columbia. Gradually, two

subspecies, or races, of Dall sheep—one white, the

other almost black—evolved.

The black Dall sheep is also called the Stone sheep.

In the Pelly Mountain area of the Yukon, black and

white Dall sheep merge gradually with each other.

The curious result, known as the Fannin, or

saddle-backed, sheep has a white head, neck, and

rump, but a grey body.

The southern sheep evolved into seven races, two

of which returned to Canada after the retreat of

the glaciers.

Rocky Mountain and California bighorns are similar

 in appearance to Dall sheep, except that their

coat is usually brown or grey in tone.

They both have a white rump patch.

The most distinctive characteristic of male

mountain sheep is their massive horns, which

spiral back, out, and then forward, in an arc.

Adult females have slightly curved horns about

30 cm long.

Horns of a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep measure

up to 125 cm in length and 460 mm in circumference

at the base.

They normally form a tight curl close to the face

 and are often blunt at the tips.

The horns of Dall and Stone sheep are about the

same length but are more slender and widely

flaring, and usually pointed at the tips.

The maximum circumference at the base of the

Dall horn is 400 mm.

The two horns of a male, with their cones, may

weigh over 13 kg.

These horns grow from the skin over a conical

bony core and are never shed.

They grow throughout life, producing a prominent

 check line, or annulus, each winter when growth

 slows.

This gives biologists a convenient means of telling

age.

Fully adult Rocky Mountain bighorn rams, or

males, stand about a metre at the shoulder and

 weigh up to 136 kg, or slightly more in the autumn

when they are in prime physical condition.

Average spring weight of adult rams is about

100 kg, of adult ewes, or females, about 63 kg.

Dall and Stone sheep are somewhat smaller, adult

males averaging less than 90 kg and adult ewes

about 50 kg.

The front hoofs of mountain sheep are slightly larger

 than the hind, but both leave a print that is almost

 rectangular.

A hard rim around the outer edge of each hoof

surrounds a softer, concave, or curving in, area

 in the middle, giving excellent traction on

rocky terrain.

Mountain sheep have eight sharp teeth at the front

of the mouth.

These are called incisors and are used to cut off plants.

 Their remaining teeth—molars and premolars—are

 deep-rooted, and adapted for chewing.

All the teeth are gradually worn down during

mastication and this process is accelerated if the

 diet includes much grit or woody material.

The pelage, or coat, of wild sheep is short and

coarse, never fine and woolly, as in domestic sheep.

 In late summer and fall, bighorn sheep, particularly

 the rams, are beautifully clothed in a rich brown

coat with white muzzle, white rump patch, and white

trim outlining the back of all four legs. By spring,

the brown coat has faded, owing to breakage of the

brittle hair tips, to a drab grey-brown.

Once a year, usually about June or July in southern

Canada, sheep shed their hair, and until the new

coat grows in, they have a scruffy, bedraggled

 appearance, with patches of matted old hair

hanging loosely about them.

Signs and sounds The voice of the ewe is a guttural

baa, most often heard when the lambs are young;

it is believed to serve as a warning of danger.

Lambs make a bleating sound similar to the young

of domestic sheep.

The only common sound of rams is a nasal snort,

usually made as a warning and when rams

prepare to fight.

SAANICH PENINSULA REALTY

CHERYL C YOUNG, REALTOR

SIDNEY B.C www.cherylyoung.ca

BC A DAY AT A TIME  www.bcadayatatime.com

cbythesea@shaw.ca  www.facebook.

www.sidneymeetup.com

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