Big Horn Sheep

 

BLUE SPIRIT - Big Horn Sheep Ram - RSC 16

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BLUE SPIRIT - Full View

Engraving & Relief Sculpture on Purcell Mountain Slate Stone
Size 9.5" x 9.5" x 1/2" thick. RSC 16. IMG 183-8358
Artist: Elaine Sell Prefontaine

 

NATURE NOTES

ROCKY MOUNTAIN BIG HORN SHEEP (Ovis canadensis)

These highly revered and exotic wild ungulates are native to British Columbia’s East Kootenays, where we constantly see them grazing along the roadsides, and although this is their home range I am always in awe at the sight of them.

The rams are identified by their distinctive “C” shaped curled horns composed of keratin, which grow continuously throughout their life time, reaching spreads of up to three feet and weighing up to 40 pounds.   Rugged “cross-ridge horn rings” are formed each year and by counting these we are able to determine their age.  In the winter when food is scarce horn growth decreases leaving less distinct and narrower seasonal rings interspersed between the annual rings.  When the curled horns of a seven or eight year old ram begin to block his peripheral vision he may purposely break the tips off on rocks.  This is called “brooming”.  The ewes have smaller pointed horns.

Ram horns are powerful weapons used as battering rams in the fall rutting season.  With larger males weighing some 250 lbs, they ram heads with such force that their skulls would split, save for their possessing unique double craniums which are padded and separated by an inch of spongy mass.  These head-on “butting battles” at speeds of up to 20 mph (32 km/h), sometimes last for several hours.  Hence,  due to these battles, the life expectancy of the competitive big horn rams, which averages14 years, decreases with the size of their horns.

As seen in the above photo, when the fall rutting season is passed, matched rams can be seen “hanging out” and “rubbing shoulders” in amicable groups.

From April to June after a gestation period of approximately six months,  the ewes seek out isolated inaccessible cliffs to give birth to their single lambs (rarely twins). The little lambs remain hidden for a week and are weaned within 6 months.

Bighorn sheep are excellent rock climbers and jumpers and good swimmers.  Their hooves are hard at the outer edges with spongy centers allowing for good traction on the cliff faces.   Bighorn can catch a foothold in places as narrow as two inches.

As can be seen in my photos, these remarkable creatures are so used to people that they either just look at us with mild curiosity, or continue grazing nonchalantly as we jockey closer for photos.  They are however wild creatures and can be dangerous if disturbed and provoked, so I took these digital photos out of my car window.

BIG HORN SHEEP/THE RAM – TOTEMS, SIGNS AND LORE

ANIMAL TOTEM – “New Beginnings”

If the big horn plays a big part in your life, and is your animal totem, it is a sign that you are seeking new beginnings in portions of your life. You are on the threshold to tomorrow, and are being inspired to use the great creative powers of your mind to lead you to those much sought after new experiences and beginnings.

WESTERN ASTROLOGICAL SIGN 

“ARIES  the Ram” – March 21st  – April 20th.
Aries, the first sign of the Zodiac represents the ram with the golden fleece.

CHINESE HOROSCOPE

“Year of the Sheep”
Chinese name for sheep” YANG”
In the Chinese horoscope the sheep sign appears every twelve years.
Our most recent Chinese Year of the Ram occurred from February 1, 2003 to January 21, 2004.
Years of the sheep: 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015
Corresponds to the Western sign of Cancer,  Fixed element fire.

 LORE

Of all the wild animals associated with prehistoric man, petroglyphs and pictographs of the big horn were the most prevalent, being found throughout the American states of Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Utah and Idaho.

 It is said that the prehistoric native peoples of these areas were as dependent on the big horn as the Plains Indians were on the bison.  Big horn sheep provided many of life’s necessities especially food and clothing.  Ram horns were used  to make impressive head dresses, prized bows for the hunters, and  tools and utensils.

Embers were carried in ram horns for ceremonial fires, and special significance was given to the big horn when he appeared in dreams and vision quests.

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