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Horns of plenty

They money is in the horns!

"The money is in the horns!" says Krista Darnell, as she watches over her flock of multi-colored bighorn sheep in the pasture. Ewes and lambs emerge through a stand of tall weeds left brown by the cold and dry Texas winter, followed by a grand master ram, bringing up the rear. A ram's horns stop growing at about four years of age, and if a four year old hasn't reached trophy class by that point, it never will.

"My rams reach Bronze or Silver trophy class by two years of age, often sooner," she notes. "To be considered for a breeder in my group, the ram must reach at least Bronze by 20 months of age." Trophy class rams can bring $600 to $1,800 from Texas exotic ranches, where hunters try their luck stalking the animals.

Darnell has four breeds of sheep, including Corsican, multi-colored painted desert sheep, black Hawaiian, and Texas Dall.

She favors the look for the black Hawaiian breed, because as she notes, "When they're big, they're glossy black and gorgeous."

A ram's price depends on the shape and length of its horns along with size of the bases, with deductions for damage. The males get turned loose on ranches that have from 200 to 16,000 acres under high fence. They go feral very quickly and with large tracts of land to run on, can live about 10 years.

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