United Horned Hair Sheep Association, Inc.
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|HISTORY of the AMERICAN HEAVY HORNED SHEEP
Through the years, breeders have sought to increase body size and
horn basal circumference in the sheep. To attain these goals, as noted
in the diagram below, sheep within the American Heavy Horned
Division have influences from several sheep breeds. While working
towards these goals, shepherds desired a division in which to officially
recognize pedigrees and bloodlines. UHHSA, Inc., created the
American Heavy Horned Division with a set of standards and breeding
guidelines to meet the shepherds' needs as Bighorn, Alaskan Dall, or
Stumberg sheep are appropriately not included within the Black
Hawaiian, Corsican, Desert Sand, Mouflon, Painted Desert, and Texas
According to Mungall (2007), Stumberg Sheep were created by the Patio Ranch in Hunt, Texas. Mouflon
ewes were bred to Argali rams due to lack of Argali ewes during Argali conservation efforts (Mungall, 2007).
COLORING & SIZE
Stumberg sheep generally retain the Mouflon coloring but are larger in body size and horn size. According
to Mungall (2007), ewes weigh around 100 lbs with males weighing 150 - 225 lbs.
Horns tend to vary away from the Mouflon's supracervical (heart-shaped) shape and turn more into the
homonymous (corkscrew) shape. Both polled and horned Stumberg ewes exist; however, horned ewes in
more prevalent according to Mungall (2007). Mature rams' horn lengths may achieve a range 30 - 39
inches (Mungall, 2007).
GESTATION & LAMBING
Both Single and Twins are experienced with a gestation period of approximately 150 days. Stumberg
sheep are year round breeders; however, an increase in mating may occur in late Summer or early Fall
Gildart, B. (1999). Mountain monarchs Bighorn sheep. Minnetonka, MN: NorthWood Press.
Mungall, E. C. (2007). Exotic animal field guide. College Station, TX: Texas A & M University Press.
Nichols, L. (1978, July). Dall sheep reproduction. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 42(3), 570-580. DOI: 10.2307/3800820
Toweill, D. E., & Geist, V. (1999). Return of royalty. Missoula, MT: Boone and Crockett Club & the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.
Photo Mouflon Ewe and Lamb.
Rafter SB/Iron Diamond Farm and
Ranch, New Lebanon, OH.
Bighorn sheep are divided into three remaining subspecies according to several literature sources:
Rocky Mountain Bighorn, California Bighorn, and Desert Bighorn. The Audubon Bighorn is extinct
(Gildart, 1999). The Desert Bighorn is further divided into Nelson's, Mexican, Peninsular, and Weem's.
Bighorn sheep have 54 chromosomes but differ from the Thinhorns in both cranial and dental aspects
COLORING & SIZE
Bighorn sheep may exhibit various shades and darken as they age. Fawn to chocolate with some gray
overtones along with possibly light gray or brown sable are typically observed. A prominent lighter to
white tail and rump patch and gray to white muzzle are standard.
Rocky Mountain Bighorn mature rams approach 40 inches at the withers and weigh up to 260 lbs. with
some specimens pushing 300 lbs. according to Toweill and Geist (1999). Ewes reach 115 to 200 lbs.
and stand around 36 inches at the withers (Toweill & Geist, 1999). Desert Bighorn rams range from 125
to 200 lbs and stand around 33 - 35 inches at the withers with ewes ranging from 75 to 120 lbs.
according to Toweill and Geist (1999).
Desert Bighorns also exhibit larger ears than their Rocky Mountain cousins.
Bighorns out pace the Alaskan Dall in horn basal circumference with 17 inches possible. Horns
themselves could weigh up to 30 lbs. According to Toweill and Geist (1999), lengths on old rams may be
in the 40+ inch range. However, in all these sheep, brooming of the tips make actual measurements
difficult. Desert Bighorns may have smaller basal circumferences of 13 - 16 inches with 35 - 40 inch
lengths (Toweill & Geist, 1999). Desert Bighorn ewes exhibit 13 - 15 inch long horns and may exceed the
Rocky Mountain Bighorn ewes horn length.
GESTATION & LAMBING
Lambs generally weigh 8 - 10 lbs. with singles the general rule; however, twins have been observed from
the Desert Bighorn (Toweill & Geist, 1999). The Rocky Mountain Bighorns have a 175 day gestation
period and lambing usually occurs from late April through mid June. Breeding peak is generally in
November. Desert Bighorns have an average longer gestation period of 179 days and longer peak
Alaskan Dall Sheep are found in the Alaskan mountains, Yukon, western edge of northwest territory and in
the extreme northwest British Columbia according to Toweill and Geist (1999). Toweill and Geist (1999)
remarked that the Dall sheep are the only North American sheep to live north of the Arctic circle. The
sheep have 54 chromosomes.
COLORING & SIZE
The Alaskan Dall sheep are beautiful snowy white animals with striking horns. Mature rams tend to weigh
200 - 220 lbs. with specimens along the northern latitudes running smaller sized.
Basal circumferences run around 12 inches and these sheep are therefore grouped into the Thinhorn
category. When viewed, the horns may not have the overall massive body as compared to Bighorns;
however, the horns tend to be wider spaced from the face than some Bighorn sheep. Ewes have horns
which are smaller in size than rams' horns.
GESTATION & LAMBING
In a study from 1978, Nichols noted the average gestation is 171 days with peak lambing from mid to the
end of May.
While the definition of what is a species and what is a true subspecies can be discussed and the best scientific classification systems can be debated, North America is blessed with several races or breeds of primitive native, or wild sheep.
While no sheep are truly native to North America, sheep have existed here since at least the Pleistocene period after several migratory events which found populations spreading out from a focal point in the Asian region. Sheep forms
have changed and adapted to the environment resulting in multitude of species and subspecies. In addition, human domestication and breeding efforts have contributed to the evolution of the sheep form as well as migratory expansion.
While not originating here, specific sheep breeds or species have become viewed as native to North America (Gildart, 1999).
According to Gildart (1999), there exists an arc of wild sheep within North America. From Colorado's Pike's Peak to Death Valley, the Sierra Nevada, White Mountain, Denali National Park, and Arches National Parks and the Grand
Canyon, this region features a wide range of geographic and weather environments. The sheep arc contained 40 breeds or races, 10 of which can trace back toward primitive forms and of which 9 are still living (Gildart, 1999). Gildart
(1999) related molecular differences exist between the nine subspecies and have been identified by chromosome mapping.
These pseudo native sheep within the North American arc can be divided into two distinct groupings: Thinhorns and Bighorns (Gildart, 1999; Toweill & Geist, 1999).
Thinhorns exist generally north of Canada's Peace River Valley. Basal circumferences measure around 12 inches.
- Dall Sheep (Dall's Sheep)
- Stone Sheep
- Kenai Peninsula Dall
Bighorns exist generally south of Canada's Peace River Valley. Basal circumferences measure around 17 inches.
- Audubon (Extinct)
- Rocky Mountain Bighorn (the largest with blocky bodies and mature weights for rams at 285 lbs.)
- California Bighorn
- Desert Bighorn (horn sizes rival the larger bodied Rocky Mountain Bighorns, weights for mature rams are around 191 lbs.)
Nelson'sBelow are brief descriptions of pure Alaskan Dall, Bighorn, and Stumberg Sheep. Keep in mind that weights, sizes, and horns will vary as the percentages or influences fluctuate within the individual sheep within the American Heavy
Horned Sheep Division. For example, sheep which are about 50% Bighorn within healthy environments have basal circumference sizes of about 15 inches., compared to the pure Bighorns which can have 17+ inch basal circumference.