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What Is the State Animal of Colorado?

The majestic Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep proudly stands as Colorado's state animal. Symbolizing resilience and strength, these creatures navigate the rugged terrain with grace. Their selection in 1961 reflects Colorado's deep appreciation for its native wildlife and mountainous landscapes. How does this emblematic animal shape the state's identity? Join us as we explore the significance of Colorado's cherished symbol.
Timiarah A. Camburn
Timiarah A. Camburn

The state animal of Colorado is the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. It was given this designation in 1961. The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep was chosen as the state animal of Colorado because it is found in the wild in the Rocky Mountain region of North America, including Colorado, and it symbolizes a strong and prosperous state.

The choice of this particular animal as the state animal of Colorado recognizes its strength and will to survive. These sheep are known for their head-to-head combat between males for the affections of the female sheep. Head-butting competition can sometimes last more than 24 hours between the same two rams.

The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is the state animal of Colorado.
The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is the state animal of Colorado.

The objective of these competitions is for the strongest ram to be able to claim power and control over the the rest. Rams will charge at each other at speeds of more than 20 miles (32.2 km) per hour, and the crack of the collisions can be heard from far away. The ram that shows the most power is the ram that can not be broken down by the fight and is still standing at the end. The toughest ram usually is rewarded for its strength and agility by getting the female and the respect of the rest of the herd.

The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is found in the mountainous area after which it's named.
The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is found in the mountainous area after which it's named.

Another reason that the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep was chosen as the state animal of Colorado is because of its location. These sheep are mostly found in the Rocky Mountains and other mountainous regions of western North America. They once were more widespread, but by the early 1900s, they had been eliminated in the wild from states such as Washington, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. There were less than 75,000 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the wild as of 2011, and it was considered to be an endangered species.

These sheep were given their name primarily because of their extremely large horns. The horns are so heavy that they can weigh as much as 30 pounds (13.6 kg), which is about 10 percent of the sheep's weight. Its curved horns can be as long as 30 inches (76.2 cm). The sheep can reach a height of about 42 inches (106.7 cm), which means that the length of their horns is more than two-thirds of the animal's height.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the official state animal of Colorado?

The official state animal of Colorado is the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. This majestic creature was designated as the state animal in 1961 due to its significance in the state's wildlife and its presence in the Rocky Mountains, which are a defining feature of Colorado's geography.

Why was the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep chosen as Colorado's state animal?

The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep was chosen as Colorado's state animal because it embodies the rugged wilderness and natural beauty of the state. It is well adapted to the high altitudes and challenging terrain of the Rockies, making it an iconic symbol of Colorado's outdoor heritage and the resilience of its wildlife.

Where can one typically see the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Colorado?

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are often spotted in their natural habitat within the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. They are particularly prevalent in state parks and wildlife areas such as the Rocky Mountain National Park, where they graze on alpine meadows and navigate steep, rocky slopes.

Are Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep unique to Colorado?

While the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is not unique to Colorado, as it ranges across several western states and Canada, it holds a special place in Colorado due to its prevalence and the state's efforts in conservation. Colorado has been instrumental in the species' management and recovery programs, helping to maintain healthy populations within its borders.

What conservation efforts are in place for the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Colorado?

Colorado has implemented various conservation efforts to protect and manage the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep populations. These include habitat improvement projects, research on disease and population dynamics, and carefully regulated hunting to ensure sustainable numbers. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife department actively monitors herds to maintain the health and stability of this iconic species.

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    • The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is the state animal of Colorado.
      By: Alexey Stiop
      The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is the state animal of Colorado.
    • The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is found in the mountainous area after which it's named.
      By: Nancy Hjxson
      The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is found in the mountainous area after which it's named.