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Do Male Sheep Have Horns?

Do Male Sheep Have Horns

Male sheep, or rams, have horns in most sheep breeds. Some sheep breeds don’t have horns in males, while other sheep breeds will have horns in both males and females.

In general, horns are far more common in males than females in sheep.

Rams have horns to fight against other rams and assert their dominance. They use horns to fight against other males. Two rams will fight each other using their horns until one of them gives up, which will give the other ram a more dominant role. Not all rams have horns, and it’s only prevalent in some sheep breeds.

Do All Rams Have Horns?

dall sheep

Not all rams have horns. The majority of rams have them, but some sheep species don’t have horns at all, even the males. On the other hand, some sheep breeds will see horns develop in both the male and the female.

Originally, all rams had horns. This was especially true in the times when sheep were not yet domesticated, and rams (and ewes) needed to have horns to fight off potential predators.

But with time and evolution, rams lost the need to have horns so they started losing them because they already felt protected without them.

Bighorn Sheep

Today, the majority of rams will still have horns – some will have larger horns than other sheep breeds. Wild sheep breeds such as Bighorn sheep still have horns, and some domestic sheep males will also have them. 

Rams need their horns to protect the herd and assert their dominance. In a herd, a ram will fight the other ram to become the leading male of the herd. Rams fight by locking horns and running into each other using their horns until one of the rams gives up. These fights can take several hours.

Why Do Rams Need Horns?

ram

Rams need horns for several reasons:

  • To fight against other rams and assert dominance
  • To protect themselves and their herd from predators
  • Because they are males

Genetically, rams are more predisposed to have horns and use them than females. This has happened throughout evolution, as rams have more use of the horns than females.

This is why in the majority of sheep breeds, only rams will have horns, but some breeds will also see females with horns.

rams

The primary reason that rams use their horns is for establishing dominance over other males.

The ram with larger horns is likely to be more dominant, and he will be able to easily attract more potential mates than a ram with smaller horns. They’re also more likely to win fights against other rams.

Another very important reason why rams need their horns is to fight off potential predators. A typical Bighorn ram will charge at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, which makes the horns a potent weapon even against the largest of predators. The impact will help the ram fight off larger predators.

Overall, horns are quite an important feature not only for rams but for all sheep. They act as a form of defense against predators and help establish the social structure among rams. 

Do Female Sheep Have Horns?

Suffolk Sheep

Female sheep, or ewes, usually don’t have horns because males have them. But in some cases, some female sheep will have horns, which is especially visible in wild sheep breeds.

In the social structure of sheep, males are supposed to be the protectors of the herd. This is why males mostly have horns to help the herd be more protected against predators. But in some sheep breeds, this is a bit different – especially in wild sheep breeds.

In breeds such as Bighorn sheep, females will also develop horns. These horns will be much smaller compared to male horns, but they’ll still be sharp and pointy. They are good enough to cause real damage to any predator that tries to come across and attack the female sheep.

sheep

But in the real world, female sheep rarely end up using these horns, even though they have them.

The reason for that is that males will use these horns as they protect their herd, but also, females don’t use their horns to fight against other sheep. This is why they won’t use them as much as males do.

Another wild sheep breed that has horns in females is the Mouflon. The majority of domestic sheep breeds, however, will not see horns develop in females. In some domestic sheep breeds, horns won’t even develop with male sheep, let alone the females.

Why Don’t Domestic Sheep Have Horns?

Sheep on a forested hillside
Sheep on a forested hillside

Domestic sheep don’t have horns because of their genes and because of evolution. They don’t need to use their horns because they’re protected by their farm owners, so throughout evolution, they have lost the use for horns.

But this is also closely tied to the genetics of the sheep. Some sheep might not have horns at all, while others will still develop them, even though they’re domesticated. But the majority of domestic sheep won’t have them.

sheep

Another key factor to consider here is the breed of the sheep. Some sheep breeds, even though domesticated, will still have horns.

Other sheep breeds will not see horns develop in males nor in females. When this happens, we call these sheep polled sheep, but if both have horns, we call them non-polled sheep.

It is rare to see horns develop in both males and females in domestic sheep. Usually, this will only happen with wild breeds such as Bighorn sheep where the sheep need the horns to protect themselves, even the females. Domestic female sheep might have small horns that are barely visible.

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Conclusion

In general, the majority of male sheep will have horns. Rams are more likely to have horns than ewes because they need these horns to protect themselves and their herd. In some sheep breeds, you’ll also see these horns develop with females, but the horns of females are smaller and pointier than with males. 

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