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What Is the State Animal of Colorado?

By Timiarah A. Camburn
Updated May 17, 2024
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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 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.

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.

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