What does the word Borrego mean?
  • In the last decades of the nineteenth century, a few cattlemen began driving their herds down to the Borrego Valley for winter grazing. Among the first were the Helm brothers, who settled in the Warner Ranch/Montezuma Valley area in the late 1860s and early 1870s. They came to regard the valley as their own private domain, and in 1872 are said to have run off a French sheepherder named Bosque, who dared to establish a sheep camp at the spring in the lower end of the valley. 

  • By the early 1880s that spring was known as Borrego Spring. The name— spelled Borego—first appears on a county map in 1883. It is a misspelling of the Spanish word borrego which means a yearling lamb. Colloquially it also means a simpleton, or a fool. It has long been assumed that the spring was named because of the Desert Bighorn sheep that once watered there, but the term borrego originally refered to domestic, not wild sheep. More likely then, Borrego Spring was named because of the sheepherders (not necessarily Bosque alone) who watered their flocks there in the late 19th Century.

  • In present day Borrego Springs, the word Borrego is widely used to refer to the Desert Bighorn sheep that live in the surrounding mountains.  So the word Borrego has evolved  since the beginning, first to mean domestic sheep or lamb, and is now understood to mean the wild sheep, and more specifically the rams, the male sheep, with the massive curled horns. 

    WIld Desert Bighorn sheep are often seen in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, sometimes along the Palm Canyon Trail near the park campground, and sometimes in the DeAnza Country Club area.  But sightings are inconsistent; sheep may be a common sight in an area for a month or more and then not seen for long periods.

    It is always a special thrill to see Desert Bighorn Sheep when hiking in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, but it is very difficult to predict where they will be.  So just count youself as lucky if you do spot some.