Colorado State Animal

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

State Symbols: Colorado State Animal: Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

(Ovis canadensis)

Adopted on May 1, 1961.

The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, (Ovis canadensis,) was adopted as the official state animal on May 1, 1961 by an act of the General Assembly.

The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep is found only in the Rockies, usually above timberline in rugged mountainous areas. The male sheep is three to three and a half feet tall at the shoulder and weighs up to three hundred pounds, while the female is slightly smaller. These large animals are known for their agility and perfect sense of balance. The bighorn sheep was named for its massive horns which curve backward from the forehead, down, then forward. On the ram the horns can be as much as fifty inches in length. It is unlawful to pursue, take, hunt, wound, or kill the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep except as provided by law.

Citation: Senate Bill 294, 1961; Colorado Revised Statute 24-80-911.

Colorado State Animal:
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

State Symbols: Colorado State Animal: Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

The bighorn sheep, (Ovis canadensis,) is a species of sheep in North America named for its large horns. These horns can weigh up to 30 lb (14 kg), while the sheep themselves weigh up to 300 lb (140 kg). Recent genetic testing indicates three distinct subspecies of Ovis canadensis, one of which is endangered: O. c. sierrae. Sheep originally crossed to North America over the Bering land bridge from Siberia: the population in North America peaked in the millions, and the bighorn sheep entered into the mythology of Native Americans.

The bighorn sheep weigh up to about 300 lbs (140 kg) in males and up to about 200 lbs (90 kg) in females. They have an overall tan to brown with a conspicuous white rump patch.

Males have large, curled horns whereas females have smaller horns that do not curl back under eyes like those in males.

Natural History of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

State Symbols:Colorado State Animal: Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

The bighorn sheep is herbivorous. Most active morning and late afternoon/evening (crepuscular), but may be active during the daytime (diurnal) also, especially during winter. Bighorn Sheep have adapted to the desert in many ways; one way is their ability to tolerate hyperthermia (see adaptation section). Normally their body temperature is 101 degrees, but they can tolerate body temperatures up to 107 degrees (42 degrees C).

They prefer rocky habitats with steep slopes and cliffs to escape predators (e.g., Mountain Lions). Males butt heads to establish mating rights, and mating takes place during August and September. Except for bachelor males (who form their own small groups), they live in herds led by a dominant female.

Colorado Law

The law designating the rocky mountain bighorn sheep as the official Colorado state animal is found in the Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 24, Article 80, Part 9, Section 24-80-911.

SECTION 24-80-911

24-80-911. State animal.

The rocky mountain bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) is hereby made and declared to be the state animal of the state of Colorado, and no person may pursue, take, hunt, wound, or kill any rocky mountain bighorn sheep, except as provided in title 33, C.R.S.

Source: L. 61: p. 783, § 1. CRS 53: § 131-8-11. C.R.S. 1963: § 131-8-11.

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
    Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Ovis
Species: O. canadensis

State Mammals
State Mammals & Animals
Mammals are vertebrates (backboned animals) that feed their young on mother's milk.