Bighorn Sheep: Discoveries

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Figure 1

Capra ibex L.

Old botanical text written in latin

Linnæus, Systema Naturae (1758)

This excerpt from the tenth edition of Linnæus's Systema Naturæ (1758, p. 68),2 is the description of the class Mammalia; order Pecora; in the genus Capra; the second species, ibex, the "goat with knobby horns that bend over the back." After citing three previously published sources of information about the ibex—the first a book by the German scholar Adam Olearius (1603-1671) published in 1666, the next two unidentifiable—Linnaeus documented that it "lives in steep, inaccessible places in Hungary," and that its "hollow horns bend over the animal's back, the body is dun (brownish gray), the beard is black."

Figure 2

Carl von Linné by Alexander Roslin (1718-1793)

painting of Carl von Linné by Alexander Roslin (1718-1793)

Royal Science Academy of Sweden

Linnæus wrote the Systema Naturæ in Latin because it was the lingua franca of the educated community, and in that context provided a level playing field for the nascent sciences of zoology and botany. The order Pecora—a Latin word for sheep—is no longer valid. The genus Capra (goat) now falls under the order Arteriodactyla (hoofed, two-toed ungulates), the family Bovidae (ruminants, i.e. grazers with four-chambered stomachs)3, and the subfamily Caprinae (goat-like, i.e. hollow-horned, bearded ruminants). His original outline allowed for Varietas—Variety—as a subcategory within a species, but that was not yet necessary in the case of C. ibex.

Of course, the main subject of this essay is neither Carl Linnaeus nor Capra ibex, but bighorn sheep, Ovis canadensis. But there were no bighorn sheep in Europe, nor Africa, nor Asia, and only a few daring explorers had yet been near the parts of North America where it lived. If Linnaeus had even heard of it, he knew not much more than rumors could carry. Nevertheless, the ibex will soon re-appear as a principal character in the tale of Lewis and Clark and the bighorn sheep.

Figure 3

Desert Bighorn Sheep Petroglyph

a rock drawing made by etching an outline of the sheep

Donald Austin photo

This petroglyph representing a desert bighorn sheep is believed to have been etched into this rock in the Coso Range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains between about 200 BC and 1300 AD. The actual meaning of the many ancient images of bighorn sheep that are still to be seen in the West is uncertain. Some archaeologists believe they may have been objects for veneration, meant to invoke the power and might symbolized by their large horns. For similar reasons, thousands of bighorn rams have been killed for their trophy heads alone, especially toward the end of the 19th century,7 just as bull elk were hunted nearly to extinction purely for the mere sake of their teeth. The bright orange lichen in this photo is probably a species of Caloplaca; the yellow-green may be Vulpicida tilesii.

Figure 4


Crude illustraion of an animal with curled horns and a very long tail

The Royal Library of Denmark

From The Bestiary of Anne Walshe8
English, early 15th century

"But ask the animals,
and they will teach you."

This illustration was supposed to represent the ibex or wild goat ram of the Alps and Apennines. He is poised to leap from his mountaintop home to the valley below, where he would land on his horns, which were believed to be so strong that he would escape injury. Judging from the figure's horns, exaggerated tail, and defiant visage, the artist had never left his (or her) scriptorium to observe an ibex in the flesh, and the verbal description must have emphasized those great horns at the expense of other details. In some bestiaries the ibex was portrayed with huge horns pointed forward.

But neither good art nor good science was the point. The picture was an exercise in pure imagination, sufficient only to illustrate a timely homily. The ibex, this scribe wrote, "represents those learned men who are accustomed to manage whatever problems they encounter with the harmony of the two Testaments as if with a sound constitution; and, supported as by two horns, they sustain the good they do with the testimony of readings from the Old and New Testament."

Figure 5

Bighorn Sheep

Early drawing of a bighorn sheep

Reprinted from Seton, Lives of Game Animals, 3:429.

The "Tayé," of which Fr. Venegas reported, "the flesh is very palatable, and, to most tastes, exquisite." The most lifelike features are the deep, short body and the slightly forward stance.

Figure 6

First Figure

scientific sketch of a bighorn sheep

The Medical Repository (1803). Ewell Sale Stewart Library, Academy of Natural Sciences.

This mezzotint engraving signed by "E. Anderson," may have been based on a painting by the "Mr. Savage," who had personally delivered McGillivray's letter to Dr. Samuel Mitchill, the founder and director of the Lyceum of Natural History in New York City, along with a hide and perhaps a head or skull with horns. That courier probably was Edward Savage (1761-1817), a New York artist whom Mitchill claimed had already made two good paintings of the Lyceum's specimen. A nearly identical figure with a timid hint of a rocky mountain in the background appeared in the first American version (1804) of Thomas Bewick's book for young readers, A General History of Quadrupeds.13 Obviously, Savage's figure was an improvement over Fr. Venegas's crude doodle (Fig. 5), but it was still a ram's head on a deer's body with a white rump and a perky little tail. Consistent with the style of most zoological figures at that point in time, it was a lifeless graphic "mug shot" contrived from an incomplete specimen. Little by little, more would be revealed.

Some biologists have speculated that the tips of an old ram's full-curl horns, normally pointed, are often "broomed," that is, broken or rubbed off—like this one's evidently were when they began to interfere with his peripheral vision. Others believe the abridged horns are entirely a result of the vigorous head-butting contests between competing rams. Notice that Fr. Venegas's likeness also apparently represented an old ram whose horns had been broken at their tips. Perhaps artists' early fascination with those fractures arose from the medieval legend of the lifesaving utility of the Alpine sheeps' horns, supposedly corroborated by the distant sounds of the rams' cranial clashes.

Figure 7

Ovis canadensis Shaw
"The Canadian Sheep"

A Bighorn sheep with unusually long legs

Ewell Sale Stewart Library, Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia

Hand-tinted engraving by Frederick Polydore Nodder (fl. 1700-c. 1800)
Original size, 7 x 10-1/2 inches

George Shaw's Description (1804)

from The Naturalist's Miscellany: Or,
Coloured Figures of Natural Objects;
Drawn and Described Immediately From Nature

2 vols (1789-1813), 2:57

Generic Character

Horns hollow, wrinkled, turning backwards, and spirally intorted [twisted or curled inwards].
Front-Teeth eight in the lower jaw.
Canine-Teeth none.

Specific Character

Ferruginous-brown hairy SHEEP, with white front and rump, very short tail, and compressed lunated [crescent-shaped] horns.
Bélier de Montagne [mountain ram].

Geoffr. ann. mus. nat. No. 11. p. 300.

Figure 8

Dr. George Kearsley Shaw
Botanist and Zoologist

Black and white etching of Dr. Geroge Keasley Shaw

Smithsonian Institution

Engraving, 10.3 x 7.7 cm (4 x 3 in.) Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, Smithsonian Institution

"God created—Linnaeus arranged."

That is the way the Swedish physician and naturalist Carl Linnæus (1707-1778) summarized the overriding theme of his life and career, which he devoted to the construction of a system for organizing the apparently chaotic connections within and among the three kingdoms of nature: plants, animals, and stones. The tenth edition of his monumental Systema Naturae, published in 1758, opened with an epigraph from Psalm 103, verse 24, from the Clementine Vulgate Bible:

"O JEHOVA Quam magnificata sunt opera tua!
Omnia in sapienta fecisti;
impleta est terra possessione tua."

How varied are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures."

His method was simply to arrange the members of the plant kingdom into a logical order according to the observable features of their flowers, so as to reveal the orderliness inherent in Divine creation. By this means Linnaeus established a new basis for exploration and understanding in the science of botany. He organized the plant kingdom into twenty-four classes according to the reproductive features of their respective flowers, calling it his sexual system. The very idea of comparing floral reproduction with human sexuality was shocking to many, but whereas most naturalists soon began to appreciate the logic of it, for the next hundred years others found the idea repulsive, Linnæus's invocation of Jehovah notwithstanding.1 With the animal kingdom the reproductive process was too obvious to require explanation.

Very soon after Systema Naturæ appeared, other naturalists began to modify and expand Linnæus's system. Before long the rank Phylum (Division in the field of botany) was inserted between Kingdom and Class, and Family between Order and Genus. The resulting seven-layered heirarchy, which still is basic to the Linnaean system, engaged the energies of more and more naturalists in Europe and America, so that even in Lewis and Clark's day, new species were being discovered, described, classified and pictured so rapidly throughout Europe, Asia, and North and South America, that the orderliness Linnaeus had sought to clarify was beginning to become blurred, partly because of the slow pace of travel, which protracted communication.

A Job to Do

Above the materialistic motives for the Lewis and Clark expedition—to find the best route across the continent for "the great engine" of commerce—and beyond the continental and global strategies of geopolitics that surrounded and sometimes threatened it, much of the daily work of the two captains was inspired by a set of transcendental values grouped under the rubric of Enlightenment philosophy. Initiated by ancient Greek philosophers, refined by humanists during the Renaissance and by rationalists during the Age of Reason, the concept of the universe as a great Chain of Being was based on the premise that the universe is complete and orderly, and that the primary duty of mankind as a whole is to observe, describe, and name all the constituent elements, and discern their intrinsic connections with one another.4 Guided by the principles first propounded by Linnæus, Lewis and Clark were active participants in the process of exploring the structure of the universe that Divine Providence had created.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, in order for the taxonomy of a previously unrecorded animal to be universally recognized by scientists as belonging to the worldwide catalog of living creatures, a systematic record, written by a qualified naturalist, had to appear in print in a book or periodical acknowledged as a reputable source. The record had to consist of a detailed description of a representative specimen; a binomial Latin expression identifying the species it represented and the genus to which that species evidently belonged; citations of previous records of the animal; and an accurate figure (picture) of the type specimen. Priority was a crucial standard of acceptance. If two or more scientists happened to publish different taxonomies for the same species, the first publication of record was considered definitive. The basic challenge was to classify the new species in the correct Order and genus of Linnaeus's system, which required some training in the field of comparative anatomy—accounting for the fact that most naturalists in those days were educated as physicians—as well as access to museums where specimens of similar species could be studied, and to libraries where the latest research was collected.

Although Meriwether Lewis was, as Jefferson wrote to Benjamin Smith Barton, "no regular botanist &c. he possesses a remarkable store of accurate observation on all the subjects of the three kingdoms, & will therefore readily single out whatever presents itself new to him."5 Indeed, Lewis's record of zoological discoveries is impressive, including at least two dozen species and subspecies of animals he believed to be new to science. Moreover, his descriptions were complete enough to enable more fully qualified naturalists to publish definitive taxonomies of those new species. But the expedition's officers had neither the background nor the resources to reach authoritative conclusions of their own.

Their portable reference library definitely contained a copy of John Miller's 1789 translation of Linnaeus's two-volume work on botanical taxonomy, and undoubtedly included at least one Linnaean guide to mammals—we don't know which one—and although Lewis expanded his remarkable talent for minute observation with a working vocabulary of about 200 botanical terms and a great many zoological descriptors, he refrained from assigning taxonomic classifications, with two exceptions.6 Somewhat surprisingly, it was William Clark who unwittingly injected a dose of confusion into their records of not one but two species of quadrupeds. In short, he and Lewis couldn't tell a sheep from a goat. More than a century was to go by before all the details came into focus. Meanwhile, the "figures"—the graphic images—of the two bovids evolved toward verisimilitude at a comparable pace.

The Back-Story

Fossil evidence suggests that sometime during the Pleistocene Epoch, a large number of hoofed, even-toed ruminant mammals with multiple stomachs began to evolve, more or less in the company of other boreal species such as the woolly mammoth, the bear, the reindeer, and many others. In North America the process probably began at the margins of glacial ice fields; in due time the species now known as the bighorn sheep evolved to inhabit a vast region extending from the Brooks Range in Alaska to the mountains and deserts of the Southwest.

At some unknown time and place our own primordial ancestors, Homo sapiens, began to identify, and perhaps to revere, some of the other animals that shared the Earth with them, especially those they felt attachments to by virtue of their proven utility as food and clothing. There is no reason not to assume that those early people eventually gave names to at least the ones that were most important to them, including the bighorn sheep, and they memorialized that importance with images scratched into or painted on cliffs, cave-walls, and rocks (fig. 3).

During the Middle Ages, Job's doctrine, "In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind" (12:10), was summarized and illustrated in books called bestiaries. These were manuscript collections, on parchment, of allegories based on passages from Scripture, explaining the symbolisms of certain attributes of various animals and birds. The ibex played an important role in that lore (fig. 4).

A Species of Deer

For many thousands of years the Native peoples who lived in far-western North America had their own names for it.

The first Euro-Americans who penetrated the Rocky Mountains from the south and the east wrote down approximate transliterations of Indians' various names for it. The Crees of the Canadian West called it My-Attic, or "ugly reindeer." Bloods, Piegans and Blackfeet knew it either as E-mah-k"-kin-i, "bighead," or Ema-ki-ca-now, "a kind of deer." To the Mandans it was Ar-sar-ta (in William Clark's phonetic  spelling) or ·se xte, also translated as Ansa-chta, "big horn"; to the Hidatsas the name may have sounded nearly the same, Azichtia. The Arikara called it Arikusa; the Slave Indians called it Sass-sei-yewneh, or "foolish bear"; the Hopi, Pan'g-wuh, (translation unclear). Spanish explorers called it Cimarron, or "wild (sheep)"; their French Canadian counterparts eventually dubbed it variously Belier Sauvage de Montagne, Grosse Corne, and Cul-blanc—respectively, "wild ram of the mountains," "big horn," and "white rump." It was the confusion inherent in mélanges of common names like these that Linnaeus aimed to replace with a logically deduced, universally valid nomenclature.

In 1540 the Spanish conquistador Francisco V·squez de Coronado wrote a letter to Governor Mendoza of Mexico describing what he had seen during his futile search for the seven fabulous cities of Cibola, a quest that had drawn him from Mexico into the present southwestern United States and lower California. Among the wildlife he had heard of were "some Sheep as big as a Horse, with very large horns and little tails." He had seen some of their horns, "the size of which was something to marvel at."

More than 150 years later, in 1702, Father Francis Mar"a Piccolo, the historian for a group of five missions the Jesuits had established on the Lower California peninsula, again reported on the remarkable horned sheep.

Besides several sorts of Animals that we knew, which are here in plenty, and are good to eat, as Stags, Hares, Coneys, and the like; we found two sorts of Deer, that we knew nothing of: We call them Sheep, because they somewhat resemble ours in make. The first sort is as large as a Calf of one or two Years old: Its Head is much like that of a Stag; and its Horns, which are very large, like those of a ram: Its tail and Hair are speckled, and shorter than a Stag: But its Hoof is large, round, and cleft as an Oxes. I have eaten of these Beasts; their Flesh is very tender and delicious.9

Another half-century elapsed before, in 1758, another Mexican Jesuit, Father Miguel Venegas, published Fr. Piccolo's description of the strange-looking but tasty animal along with its earliest known picture from life (Fig. 4), plus its Monqui Indian name, "The Tayé or California Deer." Nearly thirty more years went by before the Welsh naturalist and antiquary Thomas Pennant decided the American bighorn was really an Argali, reinterpreting the Fathers Piccolo and Venegas.10 And so on for several more decades, one naturalist after another invoking the same venerable authorities.

A Sweet Feast . . .

Late in November of 1800 a small group of explorers led by Duncan McGillivray, a clerk for the North West Company of Montreal, and David Thompson, a fur trader, surveyor and map maker for the same outfit, took a break on the bank of the Bow River to rest their horses. Noticing what looked like a small herd of deer in the distance, McGillivray and his Indian guide hurried on ahead to bag some fresh meat for their eight-man party. When they came within firing range the Scotsman realized he had never seen their likes before, so he approached to within about sixty yards of the little group, "examining them with all the curiosity that is natural for a man to feel on seeing any unusual appearance." He soon shot a male of "superior size and enormous horns," and immediately took its measurements: "length from the nose to the root of the tail, five feet; length of the tail, four inches; circumference round the body, four feet; they stand three and three quarters feet high; length of the horn, three and an half feet; and girth at the head one and a quarter feet." That afternoon he and his Indian guide killed four more of the beasts.

. . . With a Dash of the Formidable

While McGillivray was dressing out the carcass of his first big ram, David Thompson was taking celestial observations with his sextant to determine the meridian altitude of the sun, by which he could calculate the latitude and longitude of their location,11 a detail that would be useful to him in completing his map of that still uncharted region. He also recorded a few of his own remarks on those "Mountain Goats," noting their strength and agility, and the soft-centered hooves that enabled them to retreat up nearby cliffs for safety. Finally, with a hint of anthropomorphic sympathy combined with a touch of male chauvinism, he observed,

The She Goats have a simple mild Look, and are curious to approach and examine with their Eyes whatever they see moving, if it does not appear in too formidable a Shape; the Bucks divested of their Horns would have nearly the same Appearance, but their large weighty Horns superior size & Strength and more ardent curiosity, which makes them advance before the Herd, give them an Air [of] daring with a Dash of the Formidable.12

Neither McGillivray nor Thompson reported how many more of the My-attic they killed that winter, nor did they say whether they tried to preserve any complete skeletons or intact heads, but the skins of at least two of the carcasses were carefully cleaned and dried. If they could be kept free of maggots and other vermin en route, they could be carried back to civilization where, with a general description of the live animal plus its principal measurements, they would suffice as a basis for an experienced artist or engraver to create a reasonable likeness.

McGillivray recounted the tale of his encounters with the mountain sheep in a letter to Dr. Mitchill, who published it in The Medical Repository.14 The letter contained a detailed text, or "diagnosis" of the animal, which included the measurements of the first one McGillivray shot and a comparison with other similar quadrupeds in terms of shape and color (note the "timid, good-natured cast of the countenance" of the female)—very important details to any artist who sought to create an accurate depiction or "figure" – plus some general observations as to its habitats and habits, and finally its appeal to the human palate.

It is only to be met with in the rocky mountains, and generally frequents the highest regions which produce any vegetation; though sometimes it descends to feed at the bottom of the valleys, from whence, on the least alarm, he retires to the most inaccessible precipices, where the hunter can seldom follow him. His appearance, though rather clumsy, is expressive of active strength, and the nimbleness of his motion is surprising. He bounds from one rock to another with as much facility as the goat, and makes his way through places quite impracticable to any other animal in that country without wings.

The female does not differ materially from the male, except that her size is much less, and she has only a small black straight horn like the goat. The colour and texture of the hair is the same in both, and they are all distinguished by the white rump and dark tail. In other respects the female greatly resembles the sheep in her general figure, and particularly in the timid, good-natured cast of the countenance. In winter they frequent the southern declivity of the mountains, to enjoy the sunshine; the lower regions, and the valleys, at that season, being covered with a great depth of snow.

The flesh of the female, and of the young male, is a great dainty; for my own part, I think much more delicate than any other kind of venison: and the Indians, who live entirely on animal food, and must be epicures in the choice of flesh, agree that the flesh of the My-attic is the sweetest feast in the forest.15

All this was hardly a secret. Word got around among the scientific cognoscenti in Europe as well as America. Benjamin Smith Barton knew that Spanish historians had mentioned the species before 1633. Moreover, in a letter to Jefferson Caspar Wistar referred to McGillivray's account of the "Wild Sheep" as if both of them had seen the article in The Medical Repository.16 Yet in a later exchange between Jefferson and the French naturalist Bernard Germain de Lacépède, Jefferson seemed not to have remembered it. Whether Lewis knew of all this is uncertain, but it seems likely that he did, being well within Jefferson's enlightened social and scientific orbit.

Final Judgment from the British Museum

Late in 1803, doubtless working from McGillivray's text and the dried skin he had carried to England from New York, the prominent British physician and naturalist George Kearsley Shaw (1751-1813), of the natural history department at the British Museum, published an official scientific description along with a proper binomial identifying the genus and the species, Ovis canadensis—Canadian sheep, because Canada was the source of the type specimen—and a hand-colored engraving by Richard Polydore Nodder (fl. 1770-c. 1800).

The species of sheep here represented, and which appears to have been, till very lately, unknown to the naturalists of Europe, is a native of the interior parts of Canada. It is remarkable for being covered, instead of wool, with very thick and strong hair, greatly resembling that of a Deer. The legs are long in proportion to the body. The horns very much resemble those of the common ram, and those of the female are said to be much smaller than those of the male. The general colour is a pale ferruginous brown, similar to that of many of the Deer tribe: the cheeks are of a darker cast than the other parts, and the muzzle and rump are white: the tail is very short. The general habits of the animal are said to resemble those of the Ibex, frequenting chiefly the highest and most inaccessible parts of the mountainous regions, occasionally skipping from rock to rock with incredible swiftness. It is generally observed in small flocks of twenty or thirty together, and is known to the Canadians by the name of Mountain Sheep. The young are considered as the most delicate meat which that extensive country can afford [i.e. provide]. A very fine specimen of this rare quadruped may be seen in the British Museum.

Note that Shaw, who so far as we know had only the hide and horns of a "Canadian sheep" ram before him, compared its hair with that of a deer, and from only hearsay likened its habits and habitat to those of the Ibex. On the one hand, those ostensibly superficial comparisons suggested providential design, and were consistent with the ongoing search for links in the Divine chain. At the same time, Shaw's diagnosis was undisciplined. No wonder a younger critic judged his General Zoology to be a "sinker," and its author "one of the dullest and least respectable" of all British naturalists.17 The natural sciences were ripe for the revolutionary concepts of a Georges Cuvier.

Nodder presents the bighorn in a nondescript outdoor setting that contains scarcely a hint as to the type of terrain it navigates with apparent nonchalance, and which the British artist more than likely could scarcely imagine. It would be many years before someone would record the observation that a bighorn could find a secure foothold on a ledge only a few inches wide, and gracefully leap twenty feet or more from one ledge to another. Not surprisingly, however, they do have accidents, and since they do not necessarily land on their horns, one cause of mortality is a broken leg with consequent death by starvation.

It was understood, of course, that whereas the description was based on information from a person who had seen the bighorn, the drawing was made from a dead specimen, or parts thereof. The background in this instance, which probably would have been filled in by an assistant, enhances the supposedly naturalistic illusion.

On the whole, Shaw's treatment of the Canadian Sheep reflected the inadequacy of most European "cabinet," or laboratory-bound, naturalists' qualifications to deal with recently discovered North American wildlife.

Another naturalist who was indebted to McGillivray was Etienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire (1772-1844), who in 1803 published his French paraphrase of the Scotsman's account of the mountain sheep, naming it anew, Belier de Montagne–"mountain ram"–,18 and accompanied it with a figure based on Savage's engraving (fig. 6). Early in 1804, Geoffroy's version of McGillivray's description, along with a second- or third-generation figure based on Savage's drawing, became the basis of the new name for the species that the French zoologist Desmarest added to the mix, Ovis cervina–"sheep-deer," with nearly all of his description quoted verbatim from Geoffroy.19

A generation later, the English naturalist David Douglas published his personal observations on two quadrupeds that he said were "previously undescribed," the white-tailed deer and the bighorn sheep. After repeating Meriwether Lewis's dimensions of the bighorn, and detailing the characteristics of its horns and coat, he recounted an Indian informant's impression that the species was most numerous in the mountains of California. That explains the new specific epithet that he added to the still-simmering mixture of names–californianus. "Of the manners of this majestic animal I can say nothing," Douglas confessed, "never having had an opportunity of seeing it alive." In fact, he admitted, [t]he only good skin that ever came under my observation was that of a male, apparently recently killed," which he had come across on 27 August 1826. He even noted the map coordinates of its location on the east slope of Mount Adams, in south-central Washington. He tried to barter for the skin with the Indians who had bagged it, but their price was too high, so for "a few trinkets and a little tobacco" he settled for the horns only, which he subsequently donated to the Museum of the Zoological Society of London.20

But the story is not yet half-told. Getting to know the bighorn sheep intimately was to be the work of many more years-worth of pursuit, study and speculation.


1. In 1789 Sir James Edward Smith (1759-1828) published his Reflections on the Study of Nature, based on Linnæus's works. He assured his readers that "one fact, which all may learn from [the Reflections, is, that the study of Nature does not necessarily tend to make a man irreligious, as some weak people have been made to believe." The American botanist Almira Lincoln (1793-1884), was less equivocal. In 1829 she published the first of ten highly successful editions of her Familiar Lectures on Botany that she delivered to pupils in numerous "female seminaries." She avoided the unmentionable words by the use of euphemisms, such as "germ" for "ovary," and discreet circumlocutions–many of which are still in use –to demonstrate that "the vegetable world offers a boundless field of inquiry, which may be explored with the most pure and delightful emotions. Here the Almighty seems to manifest himself to us . . . and it would seem, that accommodating the vegetable world to our capacities of observation, He had especially designed it for our investigation and amusement, a well as our sustenance and comfort." Smith's Reflections were published in three installments in The Columbian Magazine (Philadelphia) beginning in January of 1789. Mrs. Almira H. Lincoln, Familiar Lectures on Botany, Practical, Elementary, and Physiological, with a [descriptions of] The Plants of the United States, and Cultivated Exotics, &c. (New York: Huntington and Savage, 1945), p. 15.

2. Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis–"System of nature through the three kingdoms of nature, according to classes, orders, genera and species, with characters, differences, synonyms, places." An interesting and concise introduction to Linnaeus's life and works is Linné on Line, at, produced by Uppsala University, in the municipality of Uppsala, Sweden. A PDF facsimile of the 1758 edition can be downloaded from Accessed 11 June 2007.

3. Although it is often used as a synonym for stomach, paunch properly denotes the first chamber of a ruminant's stomach, the rumen. The men of the Corps of Discovery, especially the hunters, knew well what it was. They were astonished to see Sioux Indians use a deer or buffalo paunch to carry water, "in the same condition, as it is taken from the Animal" (Whitehouse, 27 September 1804). Several of the undernourished Shoshone men, "like a parcel of famished dogs," shared the raw paunch of a freshly killed deer, squeezing the contents out as they ate" (Lewis, 16 August 1805). A few weeks later they watched Old Toby and his son "Eat the paunch and all the Small guts of the Deer" (Whitehouse, 4 September 1805). The Nez Perce ate the paunches of deer "without any preperation other than washing them a little" (Clark, 6 May 1806).

4. Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964), 59-61. See also "Did They Pray?" and "The Scientific Bear."

5. Jefferson to Barton, February 27, 1803; Jackson, Letters, 1:17.

6. Those two exceptions were, first, Lewis's guess that the magpie belonged to the "Corvus genus and order of the pica" (September 17, 1804), and second, that the eulachon or candle fish was "of the Malacopterygious Order & Class Clupea" (February 24, 1806), which was incorrect. The eulachon does not belong to the genus Clupea (CLOO-pee-uh), which is occupied by 200 species of herrings. Instead, it is a species of smelt, which was classified in 1836 as Thaleichthys pacificus (thal-ee-IK-this pa-SIF-i-kus) by the Scottish surgeon, naturalist and explorer Sir John Richardson (1787-1865). For an overview of Lewis's achievements in his observations and descriptions, see Paul Russell Cutright, Lewis and Clark, Pioneering Naturalists (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1969), 261-63.

7. A herd of bighorn sheep that has roamed on and around Sheep Mountain, at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers near Missoula, Montana, since before local memory began, suffered three fatalities from trophy poachers in 2006. Thanks to an anonymous tipster, seven local individuals were charged in the case during the summer of 2007. Among them, three young males age 21, 18, and 15, were fined a total of $4,620 and lost their hunting and fishing privileges for a total of more than 16 years, with one also sentenced to five days in jail, and one to five days of work release. Poaching of bighorn sheep is rare, the Missoulian (July 21, 2007) quoted a game warden as saying. "They are an animal that is highly valued by the public and sportsmen."

8. The Bestiary of Anne Walshe, so called because her signature is present on several pages, is one of the more than fifty medieval bestiaries still extant. It is thought to have been produced in England during the first quarter of the fifteenth century. It is now in the collection of the Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark. See

9. Quoted in Ernest Thompson Seton, Lives of Game Animals, 4 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1925-28), 3:512.

10. Thomas Pennant (1726-1798), Arctic Zoology, 2 vols. (London: Printed by H. Hughs, 1784-85), 1:13. An antiquary at that time was a student or collector of antiquities–relics of early history.

11. It was 50°00'00" North, 115°30'00" West, which is roughly 72 miles south and 64 miles west of today's Calgary, Alberta.

12. November 29, 1800. David Thompson's extensive daily journals, covering 27 continuous years of travel, exploration, and mapping of northwestern North America from Montreal to the mouth of the Columbia River, remained almost entirely unknown for nearly 200 years until Barbara Belyea edited some of them in David Thompson: Columbia Journals (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994). Thompson's journals were meant more as notes for his own use and to draw maps for his employer, than as reports to a waiting public and its government, as were Lewis and Clark's. During the height of the Canadian fur trade the company would have guarded much of their employee's discoveries as privileged information. But when the industry began to decline at mid-century, Thompson's experiences in the West were of little interest to the general public. He himself wrote a long account of his sojourn in the West, one of the drafts of which was finally published 59 years after his death as David Thompson's Narrative of his Explorations in Western America, 1784-1812, edited by Canadian geologist Joseph Burr Tyrrell (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1916). Thompson's comments on the bighorn sheep did not make the cut for his own memoir.

13. The producer of the book, Alexander Anderson (1775-1870), was a New York graphic artist whose specialty was relief engraving across the grain on box-wood blocks. Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) was the first great British wood engraver, whose reputation rested chiefly on the engravings he produced for his General History of Quadrupeds (London, 1790). Anderson reprinted Bewick's text in 1804, with re-engravings of Bewick's images. Anderson's edition included an appendix containing "some American animals not hitherto described," which Samuel Mitchill enumerated in the first volume (1804) of his Medical Repository as "the shy hamster of Georgia, the fossil mammoth skeleton of New-York, the wild sheep of Louisiana [fig. 6, above], and the strange vivo-oviparous shark of Long-Island."

14. The Medical Repository, the first scientific journal in America, was published quarterly from 1797 until 1824. It was founded by three members of a gentlemen's club in New York City, including Samuel Latham Mitchill, who was its editor until 1820 when he was appointed professor of materia medica and botany in the College of Physicians at Philadelphia. Although the Repository was primarily devoted to medical matters, beginning with studies of epidemics in its early years, consistent with the broad scientific focus of the medical profession, the magazine frequently included articles on botany and zoology, as well as physical geography, chemistry, mineralogy, and meterology. At the outset its subscription list consisted of fewer than three hundred names, but that number undoubtedly increased during the ensuing decades as the appeal of such magazines widened, with the Medical Repository outlasting many competitors. Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, 5 vols. (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1938-68), 1:149, 199, 215-17. In keeping with common practice in the day's media, McGillivray's letter was published first in the New York Daily Advertiser on December 4, 1802.

15. "Memorandum respecting the Mountain Ram of North-America. by Duncan M'Gillivray. Communicated to Dr. Mitchill by Mr. Savage, in a Letter, dated New-York, November 24, 1802," in "Account of the Wild North-American Sheep," The Medical Repository (Philadelphia), Vol. VI, No. 3 (February 1803), 237-40. Apparently McGillivray was not in the vicinity of any bighorn bands during the fall rutting season, for he did not mention seeing or hearing the head-butting contests among rams, in which they pair off and charge one another at speeds estimated above 20 mph, colliding their foreheads with a gunshot-like crack that can be heard up to a mile away.

16. Wistar to Jefferson, July 13, 1803. Jackson, Letters, 1:108. Lewis was on the road from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh at the time. He might have gotten wind of McGillivray's account from acquaintances in Pittsburgh during the two months he spent there waiting to take command of his custom-built keelboat, but there is no known evidence to prove that.

17. Charles Wilkins Webber (1819-56), "Audubon's Quadrupeds of North America," The American Review, A Whig Journal of Politics, Literature, Art and Science, 4 (December 1846): 632. Shaw's General Zoology (1800-1826) ran to 14 volumes.

18. Etienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire (1772-1844), 'Description d'une nouvelle espèce de belier sauvage de l'Amérique septentrionale,' Annales du Muséum national d'histoire naturelle,' Tome II, An XI (1803), 360-363, pl. lx.

19. Anselme Gaëtan Desmarest (1784-1838), in 'Nouveau Dictionnaire d'Histoire Naturelle,' Tome XXIV, An. Xii (1804), 5-6.

20. David Douglas (1799-1834), "Observations of Two Undescribed Species of North American Mammalia," Zoological Journal, vol. 4 (1829), 332.

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