Social Play among Juvenile Bighorn Sheep: Structure, Development, and Relationship to Adult Behavior


Department of Biology, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND 58202–8238, U.S.A.


A 27-mo study of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) was conducted to examine the structure and development of social play among lambs, and to compare that behavior with the behavior of yearlings and adults. Male lambs played more than females and exhibited a larger repertoire. The behavior patterns used by lambs in social play were the same as those used by adults in intrasexual conflict and courtship. However, the repertoire of lambs was more limited than that of adults. Lambs chose partners closest in age to interact with, regardless of sex. Results were consistent with the hypothesis that play serves to develop physical skills and strength.