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29 Montana Facts: Fun Facts About Montana You Need to Know

William Taylor

The Treasure State has no shortage of beautiful landscapes, but plenty of Montana facts contribute to its prosperous history!

From food and law to people, traditions, and wildlife, many fun facts about Montana cover every facet of life! Some of them date back a few centuries and remain prevalent even today!

Let me take you on a wonderful adventure, and you’ll learn a lot about what makes Montana such a blissful and upbeat place for so many of its residents! 

So, let’s jump right into some of the wildest Montana facts.

Table of Contents

29 Montana Facts: Fun Facts About Montana You Need to Know

1. The Name “Montana” Comes From The Latin “Montanea”

The first Spanish explorers called the state Montaña del Norte (mountain range). It comes from the Latin Montanea. 

In 1863, a United States House Committee on Territories member called James Ashley chose the name Montana, which he got from a Latin dictionary. 

He wanted the state to reflect its splendid mountainous nature, but representatives Benjamin F. Harding, Henry Wilson, and Samuel Cox rejected his proposal. 

It wasn’t until more Native American names, like Shoshone, that the committee finally agreed on the name Montana

2. Rare And Elusive Black-Footed Ferrets Live In Montana

Black-footed ferrets are tiny, endangered nocturnal carnivores that live at the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge, and Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. 

Montana facts reveal that people considered them extinct until they appeared in Wyoming in 1981. 

3. Montana Has The Smallest Rabbit Species In The World

A truly unique Montana fun fact includes the pygmy rabbit, which weighs only 14 ounces and measures 11 inches long. 

They live in sagebrush habitats and dig their burrows. 

You can distinguish pygmy rabbits from others by their gray, non-fuzzy fur, tiny hind legs, and short ears.

4. Montana Has The Highest Amount Of Army Veterans

Montana facts reveal some of the most patriotic people in the US, with 10.6% of its population having served in the US military. To put it in perspective, the natural average sits at 7.1%.

Montana also boasts the highest number of female veterans per capita, with 12,000 women who have served in the armed forces.

To determine this, we divide the number of women veterans by the number of civilian adults in each state. 

You can find the latest estimates of the civilian adult population by state here. After calculations, here are the top five results: 

  • Montana: 12,000 / 849,000 = 1.41%
  • Virginia: 107,533 / 6,652,000 = 1.62%
  • Alaska: 9,799 / 551,000 = 1.78%
  • Nevada: 22,042 / 2,266,000 = 0.97%
  • Wyoming: 4,768 / 445,000 = 1.07% 

5. Montana Has A Strong Literary Culture

Some of the most fascinating Montana facts lie in its literary traditions. Montana births many famous writers and poets, with great minds like Norman Maclean, Ivan Doig, Richard Hugo, and WallyMcRae.

Norman Maclean is a famous author who created A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, a collection of semi-autobiographical stories set in Montana.

Ivan Doig is the author of several novels and memoirs about Montana and the American West, such as This House of Sky and The Whistling Season.

Richard Hugo taught creative writing at the University of Montana and wrote about the landscapes and people of Montana in his poems.

Wally McRae is a rancher, cowboy, and cowboy poet who writes about the challenges and joys of ranch life in Montana. He is also an environmental activist and a recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship.

6. Montana Holds The Global Record For Variable Temperature

The state holds the Guinness World Record for the greatest temperature change in 24 hours. 

In  January 1972, Loma experienced a temperature spike from -47.7°C  at 9 a.m. on January 14 to 49°F by 8 a.m. on January 15. The result was a scorching jump of 103 degrees °F. 

7. It’s Illegal To Put A Sheep In The Cab Of Your Truck

One of the most interesting facts about Montana involves a law that prohibits anyone from putting a live sheep in the cab of their truck without a chaperone. 

This law was passed in 1931 to prevent sheep rustling and to protect the reputation of Montana’s sheepherders. 

According to some sources, the law gained inspiration from a case where people accused a sheepherder of having an inappropriate relationship with his sheep. 

The law ensures that anyone with a sheep in their truck has a valid reason and a witness. 

The law states that a person commits the offense of theft of livestock if the person purposely or knowingly drives, rides, leads, transports, or carries away any livestock that belongs to another.

8. Ekalaka Town Is Named From An Indian Chief’s Daughter

Wombalee We-chosh was a Sioux Indian from and among the first peoples in North America. 

He had a beautiful daughter named Ijkalaka, who met David Harrison Russel when she was 16. Russel was a frontiersman and scout. 

He started a town from his ranch and called it Ekalaka after his love, Ijkalaka. As Montana fun facts go, a man named Carter opened a saloon and started Ekalaka as a trade center for livestock.

Russell eventually built houses for workers, and the town flourished into what it is today.

9. Montana Is A Monument Of Natural Beauty & Wildlife

Montana has over 3,000 named lakes and reservoirs and over 50 state parks

It also has the highest number of different species of mammals in the United States, with 109 species recorded. 

10. Montana Shares A Border With Three Canadian Provinces

Montana is one of only two states in the United States that shares a land border with three Canadian provinces. 

These include British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The other state that shares these borders is Alaska. 

11. There Are More Cows In Montana Than People

Montana Livestock farmers must submit their cattle headcount to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service every five years.

Montana facts and statistics show that there are 2.51 cows for every person in Montana!

Roughly 1,050,493 people and 2,633,740 cows call Montana home.

12. Montana Is The Home Of Paleontology

Montana has the most extensive collection of dinosaur fossils in the world. 

The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman displays more than 13 full-sized skeletons of dinosaurs, including a Tyrannosaurus rex named Big Mike and a Triceratops named Montana. 

13. Montana Has A Unique Bird Species Called Plover

The mountain plover (Charadrius montanus) is a unique bird species that lives on the ground. 

It breeds in the high plains of North America, including parts of Montana, where it prefers dry habitat with short grass and bare ground. 

Since it’s a flightless bird, it relies on camouflage, agility, and sound imitation to deceive its predators. 

Its superb hiding ability gives it the name prairie ghost, and it can run up to 15 miles per hour. 

14. Montana Has A Carnival Related To Norse Mythology

The Whitefish Winter Carnival, which takes place in Montana, is a three-day celebration of winter that dates back to 1959. 

It consists of a parade, a ski race, a snow sculpture contest, and a legend involving a mountain god named Ullr and his queen, whom the evil Norse threatened. 

15. Montana Loves Celebrating Folk Music

The Montana Folk Festival is a free outdoor music festival that showcases Montana’s diverse and rich musical traditions and beyond. 

Montana facts point to the festival’s six stages of live music that range from bluegrass to blues, Celtic to Cajun, and even Native American and Nordic styles. 

Of course, there is plenty of good food to eat, crafts to purchase, and cultural demonstrations that transport you to a magical land of song and dance.

16. Et Tu Brute, From Shakespeare To Montana

The Montana Shakespeare in the Parks is a summer program that brings Shakespeare’s playwright flair to communities across Montana and neighboring states. 

The program features a traveling troupe of actors who perform in outdoor venues such as parks, schools, and fairgrounds. 

17. The Largest Snowflake In The World Fell In Montana

According to the Guinness World Records, Montana saw the largest snowflake ever recorded in Fort Keogh on January 28, 1887. A ranch owner named Matt Coleman measured it. 

Montana fun facts reveal he described it as being “larger than milk pans” – 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick.

The aggregation of many smaller snowflakes formed this snowflake due to the time’s cold and humid atmospheric conditions. 

Montana facts reveal that the famous photographer Wilson Bentley filmed the snowflake. 

18. Montana Has The Second Largest Grizzly Bear Population

Grizzly bears are an iconic and essential part of Montana’s natural and cultural heritage. It takes second place after Alaska as having the second-largest grizzly population.

Montana Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks states there are about 2,200 grizzly bears throughout the state, divided into four ecosystems. 

These include the Northern Continental Divide, Greater Yellowstone, Cabinet-Yaak, and Bitterroot. 

19. Montana’s Sapphire Mine Is Famous For Its Vibrant Gems

Sapphires are traditionally blue, but the ones in Montana can shine green, purple, blue, yellow, pink, and orange. 

According to Montana facts, these interesting stones can even be without color! 

Their unique hues give them the nickname rainbow sapphires,  and many miners try their luck gathering some of these beauties.

20. Montana Has The Purest Form Of Honey

Montana is the only state in the US with a legal definition of honey. The Montana Department of Agriculture defines honey as “the nectar from plants gathered and kept in combs by bees”.

It means that any product with the tag honey in Montana has to be pure and natural. It may not have any added ingredients or be part of additional processing.

21. One Of Montana’s Traditional Food Is Lutefisk

Montana has a tradition of eating lutefisk, which is a dish of dried cod soaked in lye and then boiled or baked. 

Lutefisk is a Scandinavian delicacy brought to Montana by Norwegian immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. 

Lutefisk has a gelatinous texture and a strong odor, usually served with butter, white sauce, or bacon. Lutefisk is often a popular choice during Christmas or other special occasions.

22. Famous Celebrities Live In Montana

The most interesting facts about Montana often involve celebrities! 

John Mayer, a singer-songwriter and guitarist who owns a ranch near Livingston. He has written songs inspired by Montana, such as “Montana” and “In the Blood.” 

David Letterman, a comedian and former host of Late Show with David Letterman. He owns a 2,700-acre ranch near Choteau, where he raises horses and cattle.

Jennifer Garner is an actress and producer who is known for her roles in movies such as “13 Going on 30”, “Juno,” and “Dallas Buyers Club”. She owns a farm near Whitefish with her ex-husband Ben Affleck.

23. There Are Two Billionaires That Live In Montana

Dennis Washington has a net worth of $6.4 billion and ranks 151st  Forbes’ wealthiest people. 

He founded Washington Companies, a conglomerate that operates in various sectors such as mining, construction, transportation, and real estate. 

John Dorrance III has a net worth of $2.6 billion and ranks 359th on Forbes’ wealthiest people list. He is the heir to the Campbell Soup fortune and owns a ranch near Big Sky.

24. Montana Has Its Own Version Of Oatmeal

Montana makes a unique kind of oatmeal called Cream of the West

It’s a 100% whole grain meal made from red spring wheat, soft white wheat, triticale, oats, barley, and rye. Additionally, it contains no added sugar, salt, preservatives, or cholesterol.

Montana facts and history state that Cream of the West was a staple for cowboys in 1914 because of its nutritional value. 

It started in a ranch kitchen, grew in popularity, and made its way to modern-day Montana’s breakfast tables. 

25. Montana Is The “Treasure State” Because Of Its Minerals

Montana is called the Treasure State because of its rich mineral reserves, especially gold, silver, copper, and gemstones.

Montana’s state motto, Oro y Plata, which means Gold and Silver in Spanish, also plays into the Treasure State narrative.

26. A Famous Author Dubbed Montana “The Big Sky State”

In the 1930s, the Montana Transportation Department built thousands of highways and bridges but needed more people to use them.

An advertising campaign thought of a catchy name to attract people and settled with Treasure State and Land of Shining Mountains for a while.

It wasn’t until 1947 that A.B. Guthrie Jr. published a book called The Big Sky. It was a realist approach to life in West Montana, without romanticism.

By 1961, the state was still on the lookout for a better way to attract people. The Transportation Department settled on The Big Sky State.

Transportation historian Jon Axile believes that Montana facts and reasoning show Land of Shining Mountains was great for West Montana but not regions with plains. 

The Big Sky State was an all-inclusive name that encompasses all of Montana. 

27. Montana Has One Of The World’s Shortest Rivers

Roe River measures 201 feet and got the title of shortest river in the world in 1989 from the Guinness Book of World Records

However, the people of Lincoln City and  Oregon cared little for these Montana facts, and a dispute erupted about whether it really was the shortest river. 

As a result, Guinness decided to eliminate the shortest river category entirely.

28. Montana Has The Largest Migratory Elk Groups In The US

The Northern Yellowstone heard of elk travel in groups of 15,000 – 20,000 when they migrate north from Wyoming into Montana every winter season.

29. Drivers In Montana Must Always Use Their Headlights

To improve road safety and visibility, the Montana Legislature passed a law in 1999 that states everyone on the road must have their headlights on at all times – even in daylight.

Quick Fun Facts About Montana

Montana has 8 national parks, including Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, which is bordered by Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada.

Twenty-three of Montana’s 56 counties have two people or less per square mile, earning them the traditional designation “frontier counties.”

Montana borders North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, and Canada.

The state is the third lowest in terms of population density, falling behind Alaska and Wyoming.

Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi in the lower 48 states.

The state with the largest population of golden eagles is Montana, with 13,138, followed by Wyoming, with 10,072, Colorado, with 7,081, and Utah, with 5,993.

That’s it for today! I sincerely hope you had a good time reading these fun facts about Montana! Wanna help me out? Be sure to share this article on your social media. Oh, and if you know some fun Montana facts, please drop them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you!