A few years ago we knew but one species of mountain sheep, the common bighorn of the West, but with the opening of new territories and their invasion by white men, more and more specimens of the bighorn have come into the hands of naturalists, with the result that a number of new forms have been described covering territory from Alaska to Mexico. These forms, with the localities from which the types have come, are as follows:
Ovis canadensis, interior of western Canada. (Mountains of Alberta.)
Ovis canadensis auduboni, Bad Lands of South Dakota. (Between the White and Cheyenne rivers.)
Ovis nelsoni, Grapevine Mountains, boundary between California and Nevada. (Just south of Lat. 37 deg.)
Ovis mexicanus, Lake Santa Maria, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Ovis stonei, headwaters Stikine River (Che-o-nee Mountains), British Columbia.
Ovis dalli, mountains on Forty-Mile Creek, west of Yukon River, Alaska.
Ovis dalli kenaiensis, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska (1901).
Ovis canadensis cremnobates, Lower California.
The standing of Ovis fannini has been in doubt ever since its description, and recent specimens appear to throw still more doubt on it. Those most familiar with our sheep do not now, I believe, acknowledge it as a valid species. It comes from the mountains of the Klondike River, near Dawson, Yukon Territory.
What the relations of these different forms are to one another has not yet been determined, but it may be conjectured that Ovis canadensis, O. nelsoni, and O. dalli differ most widely from one another; while O. stonei and O. dalli, with its forms, are close together; and O. canadensis, and O.c. auduboni are closely related; as are also O. nelsoni, O. mexicanus, and O.c. cremnobates. The sub-species auduboni is the easternmost member of the American sheep family, while the sheep of Chihuahua and of Lower California are the most southern now known.
At many points in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas the Indians were formerly great sheep hunters, and largely depended on this game for their flesh food. That it was easily hunted in primitive times cannot be doubted, and is easily comprehended when we remember the testimony of white observers already quoted. In certain places in the foothills of the mountains, or in more or less isolated ranges in Utah, Nevada, Montana, and other sections, the Indians used to beat the mountains, driving the sheep up to the summits, where concealed bowmen might kill them. On the summits of certain ranges which formerly were great resorts for sheep, I have found hiding places built of slabs of the trachyte which forms the mountain, which were used by the Indians for this purpose in part, as, later, they were also used by the scouting warrior as shelters and lookout stations from which a wide extent of plain might be viewed. The sheep on the prairie or on the foothills of such ranges, if alarmed, would of course climb to the summit, and there would be shot with stone-headed arrows.