Ram Horns: Everything You Need to Know

A ram with large curved horns
Whether rams have horns or not depends on the breed and age of the animal. Ram lambs are born with horn buds, and start to grow horns over the first months and years of their life. Some breeds of ram don't have horns at all, while some breeds have large horns.

Not all rams have horns

There are many breeds of ram without horns. Through human domestication, the trait of having horns has diminished over time. Breeders have selected for traits in rams that increase meat, milk, and wool production.

Horns are not advantageous from a farmer’s perspective and can make flock management more difficult. Commercial farmers often prefer hornless rams.

Ram breeds with horns

Ram breeds without horns

Ram lambs are born with horn buds (not horns)

Ram lambs aren’t born with horns, but if they are a horned breed, they are born with horn buds. Horn buds are protrusion from the skull of the lamb that eventually grow into horns.

These horn buds develop into horns as the lambs mature over the first few months and years of their lives.

Wild rams need horns to survive

A ram with horns grazing on grass

Wild rams need horns to survive. Here are a few uses:

  1. Defense. Wild sheep need to defend themselves against predators and against other rams.
  2. Marking territory. Rams use their horns in contests over turf to show dominance over their territory.
  3. Competition. Rams fight to determine who will mate with ewes every mating season.
  4. Grazing. Wild sheep fend for themselves, and may use their horns to facilitate grazing, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
See Also:  Sheep Heat Cycle: All You Need To Know

Ram horns come in many shapes and sizes

A ram with a black face and white wool, and with double curved horns

Ram horns come in different shapes and sizes but share a lot of characteristics, no matter the breed:

  • The horn’s bony core is wrapped in a hard keratin covering and attached to the ram’s skull. (Keratin is the same material as human nails.)
  • Ram horns grow the most during the first two to three years, and will keep growing throughout their life. If broken or cut off, they remain that way.
  • In general, ram horns are curved rather than straight. Bighorn rams are known for having curled horns. Mouflon sheep also have impressively large curled horns.
  • Some sheep have straight horns that curve back toward their heads. Sheep with straight horns usually have smaller heads and necks than most breeds. An example of a breed with this kind of horn is the Barbary.
  • Some sheep breeds can have as many as three pairs of horns. The Jacob sheep can grow anywhere from two to six horns, but the most common is four. The Icelandic sheep can also grow four horns.

The biggest horns are found on wild rams

Wild rams have some of the biggest horns in existence:

  • Bighorn sheep: Native to North America, bighorn rams have gigantic, curved horns that grow up to 3 feet long (91.44 cm) and weigh about 30 pounds (13.61 kg).
  • Dall Sheep: Dall sheep rams have massive, curved horns that grow to about 3.8 feet long. The horns have rings (annuli) along their length – that form annually and determine the sheep’s age.
  • Arapawa sheep: Arapawa ram horns have a characteristic spiraled shape and can grow up to 3.2 feet (97.53 cm).


Joanne is a nocturnal person who loves traveling and coffee. She’s also an animal lover (and rescuer) who makes it a point to befriend every animal she meets. Her passion for learning led her to writing about various topics. As someone who dreams of becoming an “animal whisperer,” she aims to continue learning about animals–particularly sheep, and at the same time, share her knowledge here at Sheep Caretaker.

Recent Posts