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The so-called “North American 27” is based on the categories of North American game animals as recognized by the Boone and Crockett Club since 1971. The traditional North American 27 consists of the following animals:
Stone sheep, Dall sheep, desert bighorn, Rocky Mountain bighorn; brown, grizzly, black, and polar bear; barren-ground, Quebec-Labrador, mountain, and woodland caribou; mule, white-tailed, Columbia black-tailed, and Coues deer; Alaska-Yukon, Canada, and Shiras moose; as well as bison, muskox, cougar, jaguar, pronghorn, American elk, walrus, and Rocky Mountain goat.
To make things confusing, B&C traditionally recognized two walrus (Atlantic and Pacific) and two muskox (barren-ground and Greenland), which actually makes 29 different animals. Hunters have only ever counted one walrus and one muskox, hence the North American 27.
Recent changes to the B&C record book have altered the number even further. In 1999, B&C dropped the Greenland muskox category but added central Canada barren ground caribou, Sitka blacktail, and Roosevelt elk, bringing the total to 31 categories. The 2005 record book also includes Tule elk, making it 32. But traditions die hard: Most hunters still refer to the “North American 27.”