The energy produced during the ramming of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) would be expected to result in undesirable stresses in their frontal skull, which in turn would cause brain injury; yet, this animal seems to suffer no ill effects. In general, horn is made of an α-keratin sheath covering a bone. Despite volumes of data on the ramming behavior of Ovis canadensis, the extent to which structural components of horn and horn-associated structure or tissue absorb the impact energy generated by the ramming event is still unknown. This study investigates the hypothesis that there is a mechanical relationship present among the ramming event, the structural constituents of the horn, and the horn-associated structure. The three-dimensional complex structure of the bighorn sheep horn was successfully constructed and modeled using a computed tomography (CT) scan and finite element (FE) method, respectively. Three different three-dimensional quasi-static models, including a horn model with trabecular bone, a horn model with compact bone that instead of trabecular bone, and a horn model with trabecular bone as well as frontal sinuses, were studied. FE simulations were used to compare distributions of principal stress in the horn and the frontal sinuses and the strain energy under quasi-static loading conditions. It was noticed that strain energy due to elastic deformation of the complex structure of horn modeled with trabecular bone and with trabecular bone and frontal sinus was different. In addition, trabecular bone in the horn distributes the stresses over a larger volume, suggesting a mechanical link between the structural constituents and the ramming event. This phenomenon was elucidated through the principal stress distribution in the structure. This study will help designers in choosing appropriate material combinations for the successful design of protective structures against a similar impact.

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