The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Armadillo
Story Of The Lynx
Story Of The Elephant
Story Of The Leopard
Story Of The Reindeer
Story Of The Coyote
Story Of The Wild Sheep
Story Of The Mungoose
Story Of The Zebra
Story Of The Yak
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Story Of The Wild Sheep
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Vice-President Roosevelt simply stated a fact known to all Western hunters when he described the difficulties attending a successful pursuit of the Rocky Mountain sheep, or "big horn," as they are generally known. During Mr. Roosevelt's various outing excursions he took a keen delight in hunting this wary animal, but frequently he was compelled to acknowledge defeat. In the spring and summer the full-grown rams form separate bands of from three to twenty, and are usually found feeding along the edges of glacier-meadows, or resting among castle-like crags of the high summits; and whether quietly feeding, or scaling the wild cliffs for pleasure, their noble forms, and the power and beauty of their movements, never fail to strike the beholder with lively admiration. Their resting-place seems to be chosen with reference to sunshine and a wide outlook, and most of all to safety from the attacks of wolves. Flocks of these sheep have, on more than one occasion, been known to leap down a precipice one hundred and fifty feet in height.
They frequent the elevated and craggy ridges with which the country between the great mountain range and the Pacific is intersected; but they do not appear to have advanced farther to the eastward than the declivity of the Rocky Mountains.
Their favorite feeding-places are grassy knolls, skirted by craggy rocks, to which they can retreat when followed by dogs or wolves. They are accustomed to pay daily visits to certain caves in the slaty rocks that are encrusted with a salty growth, of which they are fond. The flesh of this sheep is quite delicious when it is in season.
Although the "big horn" was numerous throughout an immense region a few decades ago, the advance of the white man has served to diminish their numbers, and, like the buffalo, the animal will soon be extinct unless the Government gives it protection. These sheep have been seen on the summits of the highest peaks in the United States, and their agility in crossing crags and glaciers is marvelous.
I shot a ram in Wyoming several years ago which stood four feet in height at the withers, weighed over four hundred pounds, and whose horns, measured along the curve, were forty-two, inches in length. The ewes stand about three feet in height.
The magnificent wild sheep of Mongolia is known as the argali, and is as large as a full grown donkey. A closely allied species is found in Thibet. Both of these have many points of similarity with the "big horn."
The Pamir sheep takes its name from inhabiting the elevated district in Central Asia known as the Pamirs, or "Roof of the World." It is also found on the table-lands to the westward and northward of Eastern Turkestan.
The Pamir sheep, although furnished with longer horns, does not appear to attain quite such large dimensions as the Thibetan argali, from which it is mainly distinguished by the form of the horns, and also by color. In the male the horns, when viewed from the side, are seen to form a spiral of about a circle and a quarter; and when adult they are much longer than those of the argali, but are less massive at the base. In fine specimens I measured, the horns attained a length of from sixty to seventy inches along the curve, with a girth at the base of about fifteen inches. One specimen had the remarkable length of eighty-two inches, with a girth of eighteen inches.
The European member of this family is known as the mouflon, and formerly was found in all parts of continental Europe. In recent years the animal has become extinct except in Sardinia and Corsica. The mouflon is much smaller than the other species, rarely measuring more than thirty inches at the withers. -
In Sardinia the mouflon, instead of being found on all the mountain ranges, are restricted to certain chains, and there they frequent only the highest ridges, generally confining themselves to such peaks as command a view of the whole of the surrounding country. The flocks of mouflon are led by an old and powerful ram; but at the pairing-season the large flocks used to split up into small parties, consisting of one ram and several ewes. The rams engage in fierce conflicts among themselves for the supremacy; and during the months of December and January the mountains re-echo with the sound of the blows as one ram rushes against the head of another. The Sardinian mouflon is one of the most difficult animals to approach with which I am acquainted. When they are alarmed, or at "gaze," they have a habit, or at least the rams have, of placing themselves in the middle of a bush, or in the shadow which it casts. The ewes, which are naturally less conspicuous, do this in a less degree. The mouflon are assisted by the wonderful alertness of their eyes. One of their favorite devices is to seek for spots on the lee-side of a ridge where the currents of air meet. Here, and in otherwise favorable positions, they are quite unapproachable. Occasionally wild mouflon will desert their own kin to live among tame sheep; while sometimes also a motherless domestic lamb has been known to seek companionship among a flock of mouflon.
In conformity with its structure, the bharal of Thibet is intermediate in its habits between the sheep and the goats. Like the former, it is found on undulating ground, and frequently lies down during the day on its feeding-ground, though generally amongst stones; but, like the latter, it is a splendid climber, perfectly at home on precipitous cliffs, and when alarmed takes refuge in ground inaccessible to man. It is found in herds of from eight or ten to fifty or even a hundred; the males and females being generally found apart in the summer, but frequently associating together at all seasons. The herds keep to high, open ground above forest, and never even enter bush. They feed and rest alternately during the day. Owing to their color it is peculiarly difficult to make them out when they are lying down amongst stones. It appears that these animals are never found below an elevation of ten thousand feet above the sea-level, while in summer they range up to fourteen thousand and sixteen thousand feet. Bharal are by no means difficult of approach in districts where they have not been much disturbed, and on one occasion in Ladak I came suddenly upon a flock of five rams lying asleep in an unfrequented path.
The Barbary, or maned sheep, which is the only wild representative of the group met with in Africa, while agreeing with the bharal in the general character of its horns and skull, is distinguished by the great mass of long hair clothing the throat, chest, and fore-limbs, and likewise by the great length of the thickly-haired tail, which reaches slightly below the hocks.
The Barbary sheep attains a height of rather over three feet, and is of a nearly uniform pale yellow color.
The Arabs are in the habit of pitching their tents near the scanty springs frequented by these sheep, and daily lead their goats high up the mountains. Consequently, the animals have no means of escaping from them, as every mountain within reach of water is similarly infested. They are constantly within sight and hearing of the Arabs and their goats, and as they cannot get away they have developed the art of hiding themselves to an extraordinary extent, and they have unlimited confidence in their own invisibility.