Macho rams 'take a walk on the wild side'

  • Bighorn ram

    Dale F. Reed
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

In the social system of wild sheep, the ram with the largest horns rules. Not only does he breed most of the ewes, but he is followed around by an admiring throng of lesser males. It is not surprising, then, that bighorn rams are as obsessed with their rank and status as presidential candidates and spend much of their time comparing horn sizes and doing battle with their peers.

Rams love a good brawl, and will come from all directions to join a fight in progress. Just before the breeding season, mountain walls ring with the clash of their built-in weapons, which can weigh as much as 30 pounds and are wielded in vicious karate swings. No wonder the animal has become a sort of totem for human males.

As it happens, this symbol of virility spends most of his adult life fawning on larger males.

Sometime after its second year, a young male bighorn leaves the nursery band of females and lambs he grew up with and begins following the largest-horned ram he can find. Thus he discovers the seasonal ranges that enabled the older animal to grow so large.

But the big male has nothing to gain from being shadowed by adoring adolescent sheep. The only way teenage rams can ingratiate themselves with their potentially dangerous elders is to act like females. Mountain sheep expert Valerius Geist writes, "The male groups are homosexual societies in which the dominant acts the role of the courting male and the subordinate the role of the estrous female."

Only when the young rams grow big enough horns to challenge their idols does this behavior cease. The instigator of a battle often insults his rival with the tongue-flicks and grunts that are the ovine equivalent of wolf whistles, and the loser may suffer the indignity of being mounted like a ewe.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Wyoming Wildlife Federation - collaborates with the Executive Director and staff to ensure the effective implementation of all philanthropic activities. https://wyomingwildlife.org/hiring-philanthropy-coordinator/.
  • HawkWatch International is hiring an Executive Director to lead the organization. The next leader of this growing organization must have: 1. Enthusiasm for conservation, birds...
  • Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • Home Resource is a non-profit community sustainability center. We work with, in, and for the community to reduce waste and build a more vibrant and...
  • Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • Borderlands Restoration Network 501c3 is hiring a full-time Development Director. Description and job details can be found at https://www.borderlandsrestoration.org/job-opportunities.html
  • Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921
  • The City of Fort Collins is seeking an Environmental Planning Manager in the Natural Areas Department. The Department has an annual budget of approximately $13...
  • We are seeking an experienced designer to be the team lead for web development and digital media. Part creator and part planner, this person should...
  • at RCAC. See the full description at https://bit.ly/2WJ3HvY Apply at [email protected]
  • The Utah Rivers Council is looking for an energetic individual with strong communication and organizing skills. The Grassroots Organizer works to ensure our campaigns are...
  • Newly refurbished and tuned. Older model, great condition. Gasoline engine. Chains on tires. Heavy duty for mountain snow. Call cellphone and leave message or email.
  • Hiring a part-time ranch manager to live on The Nature Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch property in Hayden, CO. Responsibilities include: facility maintenance of historic ranch house,...
  • unique custom home in Sangre de Cristo Mountains of CO near La Veta Pass, 3 bed, 2 1/2 bath, private gated park, two hours from...
  • Kaniksu Land Trust, a community-supported non-profit land trust serving north Idaho and northwest Montana, is in search of a new executive director. The ideal candidate...
  • The Flathead Lakers are seeking a dynamic, self-motivated and proven leader to be our next Executive Director (ED).
  • The Blackfoot Challenge, a renowned collaborative conservation org in MT, seeks our next ED.
  • 10-day tour from Los Mochis airport, 2/nyts El Fuerte, train, 2/nyts canyon rim hotel, 5/nyts camping. 520-324-0209, www.coppercanyontrails.org.
  • Earthjustice is hiring for a Staff Attorney
  • to lead an organization that funds projects in National Parks. Major gift fundraising and public lands experience critical. PD and app details @ peopleinparks.org.