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
  • 5 acres, views, utilities to lot line includes paid water tap, great for passive solar design, covenants and NO HOA. Listed by Beckie at Keller...
  • The Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS) is seeking qualified applicants to fill a vacant Executive Director position in Denver, CO. The position serves...
  • The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 25-year legacy of success using the power of the...
  • 383 Acres with trails, private road, trees, stream and fabulous views. Earth Sheltered, passive solar home provides 2785 sf of comfort and a "top of...
  • certified, 51 acres, small cottage, outbuildings, equipment and tools. Contact: [email protected]
  • 2bd/2bath green home on 2 acres on the Ojo Caliente River, NM. MLS #101605. Contact [email protected]
  • of mountains, 22+ acres. Close to Arroyo Seco and the Taos Ski Valley, NM. MLS #102585, [email protected]
  • 2br-2ba, acreage. Birders, writers. 1000.
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • The Wilderness Society is currently recruiting for a Communications Manager for our Northwest Region. This position can be located in Seattle or Oakland. For more...
  • 1912 Orchard House completely rebuilt 2002. 4000 sq ft home and private guest cottage on .53 acres. Reclaimed maple and Doug Fir. Two garages. CathyMooney.com,...
  • with home on one acre in Pocatello, ID. For information and photos visit www.blackrockforgeproperty.com.
  • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) seeks a new Executive Director to guide this dynamic national advocacy, watchdog, and service organization. The successful candidate requires...
  • The California Program Manager will work closely with California-based program staff and other NFF staff to provide project management and program development support. The incumbent...
  • Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • Sierra Club is looking for a community organizer who can help us protect grizzly bears and other wildlife species in the Northern Rockies region. This...
  • Join HCN and Black Sheep Adventures on an expedition through the national parks and monuments of Utah and Southwest Colorado, September 7 - 15, 2019....