Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Bighorn Sheep Rams Wear Biographies on Their Horns

┬ęBert Gildart: Those who follow my blog must surely know I was pleased with the outcome of this election. My entries of the past few weeks will suggest why.

But I also hope history remembers Senator John McCain as more than just a passing candidate. His concession speech was magnificent and he is undisputedly one of America’s most patriotic figures. Given other circumstances he might have won, and had that been the case, I would not have been distressed.


But the election is over, and I want to refocus now on the reason I initially began this blog, and that was to celebrate the beauty of nature. My boat trip this past weekend to Montana’s Wildhorse Island certainly allowed me to do that, for this Flathead Lake island contains more than just magnificent deer. It also contains majestic specimens of bighorn sheep, something about which I know a great deal, having authored a book about the species some years ago.


Rams wear their biographies on their horns. Large annual growth rings tell us this ram is eight, while the "brooming" on the tips tells us this fellow is a gladiator of many contests

While hiking the island, I came across one of the most magnificent specimens I’ve ever seen. Start by studying this photo taken last weekend and you’ll see what I’m talking about, for bighorn sheep rams wear their biographies on their horns.


For starters, you can count the huge growth rings, and my count provides six. Now look at the tips of the horns, which contain a significant amount of “brooming.” This guy has been in a number of battles, and you might wonder how it survives so many head-pounding collisions. Here’s what my research and visits with biologists have informed me. Paraphrased, here’s what I wrote in my book, Mountain Monarchs published by Northword Press.

For starters, the top of the skull is extremely thick with some cellular cushioning beneath it. For even greater padding, ossicones-a tough, gristle-like material-protrude where the horns attach to the skull.


Beneath the ossicones, two layers of bone connect with numerous bony cross sections, much like the honey-coned section of an airplane wing–which further protects the brain. But there is more. All vertebrate skulls contain wavy hairline cracks called sutures. Mountain sheep have sutures that zigzag much more widely than do those found in other mammals. These sutures allow the plates to adjust when horns clash. This movement helps to absorb the shock at the time of impact…

The sheep’s skull protects in yet other ways. Both horn cores are made up of a solid bone. So too are the bones around the nose. As well, when sheep are about 3-1/2 years old, a protective knob of spongy tissue begins to develop at the back of the head, which become more distinct as rams grow older.

Indeed, sheep are a magnificent species and if you’re interested in learning more you can obtain a second-hand copy of my book from Amazon. The photograph shown here was taken with a 60mm Nikon lens mounted on a Nikon D300 body.


*Lunch in Shadow of President Hoover


One Response to “Bighorn Sheep Rams Wear Biographies on Their Horns”

  1. Cora Strempel Says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on bighorn sheep. Regards