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Bighorn Sheep vs Mountain Goat (What’s the Difference?)

Bighorn Sheep vs Mountain Goat (What’s the Difference?)

Bighorn sheep and mountain goats both live in mountainous areas, but there are several differences between them. The main visible difference is in their horns – Bighorn sheep have larger and curved horns.

Furthermore, mountain goats are white, while Bighorn sheep are brown. Mountain goats also have more fur than Bighorn sheep.

Mountain goats and bighorn sheep often compete for habitat. They both like rocky areas and hard-to-access terrains where they feel safe from predators. Bighorn sheep have larger horns than mountain goats, but this doesn’t mean that the sheep would win the fight between the two animals. Often, it’s actually the goat that dominates.

Key Differences Between Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats

Bighorn Sheep

Even though it might seem confusing as to what species you might be looking at, there are some key differences between Bighorn sheep and mountain goats that you should know about.

1. Horns

The biggest and most obvious difference is in the horns. Bighorn sheep have larger horns that are curved. On the other hand, mountain goats have spiky horns that aren’t as big as those of Bighorn sheep.

Both will use these horns for self-defense but in a slightly different way.

Bighorn sheep will use their horns to charge against their enemy and intimidate them that way. They can charge at their enemy with speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, which allows them to deliver a powerful blow. Sometimes, this will be enough to disable the attacking animal.

Related Article: Do Lambs Have Horns?

bighorn sheep
Sheep on a forested hillside

On the other hand, mountain goats will use their rear legs to make themselves big and then strike their enemy from that high position. This doesn’t provide them as much power as Bighorn sheep can have, but it’s also a powerful strike that helps them push their predators away.

Related: Do Rams Have Horns?

Because Bighorn sheep and mountain goats share habitats, the horns of both of these animals often come crucial in the fights between the two. While it’s hard to say who would win a fight, it’s fair to say that both have strong and big horns that will help them in their self-defense.

Another thing these two have in common is that females of both species also grow horns, which is not typically seen. Most breeds of female sheep don’t have horns

2. Color

bighorn sheep

Another difference between bighorn sheep and mountain goats is the color. The sheep are brown-grey, while the goats are entirely white. 

Of course, you will also see other color variations in these two species, but the predominant colors are white for goats and brown for the sheep.

This is also one of the easiest ways to distinguish between a mountain goat and a Bighorn sheep – by simply looking at the color of the fur of the animal.

For the Bighorn sheep, it might be a bit unusual to see the brown color as sheep are usually white.

It’s believed that mountain goats have maintained their white color to adapt to the snowy conditions where they often live, which allows them to blend in better with their environment.

3. Fur Length

Mountain Goat

Mountain goats have longer fur than Bighorn sheep.

This might also come as a bit of a surprise since sheep usually have much longer fur than goats and farmers use sheep wool to make products from wool. But with mountain goats and Bighorn sheep, the situation is a little bit different.

Namely, mountain goats have longer fur than Bighorn sheeps’ wool. The main reason for this is their adaptation to the cold and winter conditions they usually live in.

They have thick and long fur, which allows them to survive the harshness of the winter they have to go through and outlive other animals in their habitat.

bighorn sheep

Both Bighorn sheep and mountain goats will also need to shed their winter coats when it gets warmer. They will both do that naturally, as they will start to rub against rocks and trees to lose their coats.

This is an important process for them since it allows them to have a thinner coat and survive the warmer temperatures of the summer.

This is yet another adaptation that both of these two wild animals have to survive. Both of these two are wild species and compared to their domestic counterparts, so they’ll need to shed their fur on their own.

Domestic sheeo, on the other hand, rely on their owners to help them shear their coats which should be done once a year at least.

Related: Do sheep like being sheared?

Who Would Win: Mountain Goat or Bighorn Sheep?

wild sheep

While both animals have big horns and good defensive mechanisms, the fight between these two would probably be evenly matched.

They will both use their horns to attack the other animal. However, they also have slightly different techniques when striking their opponents. Bighorn sheep will charge at their enemy and try to blow it out with their horns, while mountain goats will strike from a higher position on their hind legs.

Both animals are similar in size and weight, so neither of them has a clear advantage in this aspect.

However, mountain goats are also more aggressive and have a craving for dominance, so they will often attack Bighorn sheep to assert their dominance in a habitat. Bighorn sheep are not nearly as aggressive and will only attack another animal when they need to defend themselves and their herd.

Mountain goats will, because of their aggression, often bully Bighorn sheep and drive them out of their habitats.

While a mountain goat would probably not be able to kill a Bighorn sheep, it’s still aggressive and strong enough to drive it away from its habitat and dominate it.

Conclusion

Mountain goats and Bighorn sheep live in similar habitats, but there are some key differences between the two. Bighorn sheep have larger and stronger horns, while mountain goats have longer fur. There’s also a difference in color between the two – the goats are white, while the sheep are brown.

In a fight, a mountain goat would possibly prevail because of its aggressive nature, but the Bighorn sheep would not leave without a fight.

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