Dean M. Chriss
Bighorn Ram. I've Got an Eye on You

Bighorn Ram, I've Got an Eye on You

(Click image to enlarge)

I found a group of 15 bighorn rams in a vast, treeless, high altitude, grassy area. Because the place was so open and without cover, I sat on the ground quite a distance away to observe and photograph them if possible. One of the rams noticed me and took an interest. He left the group and walked over to investigate. Once satisfied that I presented no danger he went back to the group. They all sat down and rested in the grass for an hour or so. I stayed seated until they got up and walked away.

A large bighorn ram like this one can weigh up to 300 pounds (136 kg) and their horns alone can weigh 30 pounds (14 kg). They use their horns as weapons to fight for dominance or female mating rights. In this display called "rut," rams face each other, rear up on hind legs and leap forward at speeds up to 40 mph. The loud crash of horns signals contact and can be heard up to one mile away. The impact can generate 1765 pounds (800 kg) of force, which is over 10 times the force of two football players colliding. That is enough to kill a human, but aggression by bighorn sheep against humans is extremely rare. Regardless, it is a little intimidating when one of these fellows decides to approach, which is also extremely rare.