California Bighorn Sheep

Ovis canadensis

California Bighorn Sheep


California bighorn sheep are covered with a brown coat. Their belly, rump, back of legs, muzzle and eye patch are white and their fur is like a deer’s. Mature males have a set of massive horns which spiral backwards from the top of the head. The sheep’s hooves are hard on the outside and soft on the inside making them excellent climbers and jumpers.

Range & Habitat

They live in alpine meadows and foothills near rocky cliffs in the Southern and Central Interior ecoprovinces. They’re almost always within range of cliffs with avalanche chutes and slopes that they use to escape from predators.

Diet & Behaviour

Bighorn sheep are vegetarians, eating grasses, bushes and leaves. During the mating season, males have butting contests where they may hit one another at speeds of 30 to 45 kilometres per hour with an estimated force of over 1,000 kilograms. Combat between rams can last for more than 24 hours.

Lifecycle & Threats

They live an average of seven to eight years; most die during the winter from cold, predation or disease due to lack of food.


COSEWIC: Not at Risk
CDC: Blue

More Information


Photo: Matthaus