Saturday, June 9, 2012


Sheep trap petroglyph near Moab, UT. Photo Dell Crandall.

This first illustration is a petroglyph that was provided by Dell Crandall in Moab, UT., it apparently shows a bighorn sheep trap. This might be a natural trap like Dead Horse Point near Moab where a high pinnacle is connected to the rest of the mountain by a narrow neck and once the animals were driven out onto it they could be confined easily with no way down.

The petroglyph consists of a circular shape with a funnel-shaped entrance, and what appears to be footprints or animal tracks entering it and then circling around. This seems to represent exactly what we would expect to see happen in real life in such a scenario. Outside the wings of the trap are a group of quadrupeds (apparently bighorn sheep) which may illustrate the herd grazing on the slope below the trap.

Bighorn sheep trap wings with corral section at center, near 
DuBois, WY. Photo Peter Faris, September 1998.

The other photographs are of an actual constructed bighorn sheep trap in the Shoshone National Forest of the Wind River mountains above DuBois, Wyoming. This trap was constructed by the Shoshone group called “Sheep Eaters” and may, in fact, be early historic in date. Assembled of wood (stumps, trunks, and branches) it consists of a central corral and a long pair of fences in a “v-shape” leading to the opening of the corral. This trap is located on a high mountain saddle in heavily forested area.

Bighorn sheep trap central corral section, near 
DuBois, WY. Photo Peter Faris, Sept. 1998.

We assume that the way that these traps worked was for a group of people to start somewhere down near the bottom of the slope at a time that bighorn sheep were known to be grazing there. As a long line the people would then start up the slope making noise. Any animals above them on the hillside would presumably want to be farther away so they would also begin to drift upward toward the saddle that would allow them to cross to the other side and down into the next valley. As they approached that saddle they would run into the wings of the trap deflecting them toward the center. In the center there was a low wall that they would want to jump over at some point to continue to escape the approaching people, but this led them into the corral.

In either case a limited amount of exertion by a group of people would presumably reward them with a large amount of game. If we are to assume that some rock art actually does represent hunting (which I think very few would deny) then this petroglyph is quite likely to represent exactly what it looks like, a bighorn sheep trap. 

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