An Alberta bighorn sheep that lived near Hinton has lived up to its name: it might turn out to be biggest bighorn ever.
A wildlife officer found the horns of the 10-year-old ram two weeks ago while on a routine check in the area of a reclaimed coal mine.
"It's unique to find one this big for sure," said Alberta Fish and Wildlife officer Neil Brad. "We've had some very large rams found in that location. It shows that the big horn sheep genetics in this area are very good."
The ram likely died from this year's severe winter as sheep normally live around 14 years, he said.
The horns, weighing about 18 kilograms, must be left to dry for a couple of months before they can be officially measured, he said.
A preliminary measurement puts the horns almost two centimetres over the score of the current world-record holder — a set belonging to a bighorn shot by a hunter in Alberta in 2000.
The horns, now provincial property, will eventually be on display in a museum or the lobby of a government building.
Bighorn sheep, Alberta's official animal, are plentiful near the Rocky Mountains and frequently can be found feeding near Highway 16 heading into Jasper National Park.
During mating season, the male rams rear up on their hind legs and charge at each other, smashing their horns together in a competition over breeding rights.
Hinton is about 300 kilometres west of Edmonton.