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Rams Battle for Right to Mate

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For bighorn sheep, the end of autumn marks a turning point. It’s the rutting season and male bighorn sheep are competing for the right to mate.

TRANSCRIPT

- [Narrator] It's rutting season and males are competing for the right to mate.

Rank is constantly reinforced and often contested.

(horns thud) Their ultimate weapons are their curled horns that can weigh up to 30 pounds.

They are literal battering rams.

In spring, two-week old ram lambs will begin to butt heads in mock battles.

In the early development of a social order, they will be part of for the rest of their lives.

Most of the year these rams live in bachelor groups that adhere to a rigid hierarchy, largely determined by age and size.

Their life has a singular focus, and this is what they've been preparing for all year long.

(hooves clomping) A male can determine that a female is ready to mate simply by smelling her urine.

He takes in her scent by tilting his head back so her pheromones can reach a sense organ in the roof of his mouth.

(rams grunting) Females are in estrus for just 48 hours.

And during this time, the rule book rams have lived by is thrown out the window.

A higher ranking male is guarding this female, but he's up against a reckless youngster willing to risk it all.

(horns thud) The lower ranking male knows he can't win in a head-to-head fight, so his goal is to separate the female from the higher ranking male, just long enough to mate.

In these early years, it may be his only chance.

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