Desert Bighorn Sheep

"High Trails" by Daren Bader (acrylic and digital)

With the bighorn piece, I wanted to create a composition without a horizon to try to set a slight mood of vertigo. I have personally seen bighorn gracefully walking invisible trails on high cliff sides in the wild, and it has always been fascinating to watch them fearlessly and casually move about. With this painting, I wanted to try to get the viewer to recognize how strange it would be to walk those pathways.
— Daren Bader

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Bighorns inhabit alpine meadows, grassy mountain slopes and the foothill country near rugged, rocky cliffs and bluffs. They range from Nevada and California to west Texas and south into Mexico. Another rare group inhabits the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. They are adapted to desert life, able to withstand the heat and cold better than other mammals, due to the ability of their body temperature to fluctuate several degrees.

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Family Life

Bighorn sheep live in herds or bands of about 100 individuals, but small groups of eight to ten are more common. Males are called rams and females are called ewes. One offspring is born per sexually mature female per year following a six-month gestation period. They can swim freely, despite their massive bulk and the weight of their horns. Bighorns are generally active during the day, feeding morning, noon and evening.


Males generally have a life expectancy of 10-13 years, while females can live up to 20 years.

Hunting Habits/Diet

Bighorns are primarily grazers, and are very picky eaters. They will preferentially consume the most nutritious vegetation available, primarily consuming grasses, cacti, shrubs and some variations of trees. Desert bighorns get most of their water from the plants that they eat, although they still visit waterholes in summer.


Today, nearly 75,000 bighorns remain.

Fun Fact

In the fall, desert bighorn rams compete for ewes by having butting contests. They charge each other at speeds of more than 20 mph, their foreheads crashing with a crack that can be heard more than a mile away; these epic battles may last as long as 24 hours. Both genders have horns.

Why are they endangered?

Human activities are responsible for the bighorn’s decline. Grazing, mining, depletion of water holes, homesteading and use as camp meat are threats for the bighorn. They are also prone to accidents and sometimes slip and fall from cliffs or are struck by falling rocks. Desert bighorns are also highly susceptible to disease transmitted by livestock.


Least Concern


Majestic Bighorn Sheep