Ammotragus lervia (aka Aoudad)
The aoudad is up to five feet long and four feet high on average and weighs up to 300 pounds, with males being considerably larger than females. It has a relatively long tail that is tufted on the end half, and the triangular-based horns curve outward, backward, and then inward, and are marked with strong transverse rings; both sexes have horns, but those on males are longer (up to 22 inches). Both sexes also have long hair on the throat, chest and upper parts of the front legs.
Barbary sheep are expert climbers and are able to ascend and descend precipitous slopes with ease. They are also excellent jumpers, able to clear obstacles of over six feet from a standing start.
Distribution and Habitat
Native to dry mountainous areas of northern Africa, Barbary sheep were introduced into parts of Texas and New Mexico in the early 1900's. Listed as a vulnerable species in its native habitat, it has become so well established in America that there are concerns it may compete with the native bighorn sheep. There is also an established introduced population in Spain.
Habits and Behaviors
Barbary sheep are primarily solitary but will assemble in small groups consisting of females, young, older individuals and a dominant male. Since their native habitat offers little protection from cover and their predators are equally adept at negotiating their native terrain, Barbary sheep typically freeze in the presence of danger and rely on their coloring to help them blend into their surroundings.
Breeding may occur any time of the year but is most common from mid-September to mid-November. The gestation period is about 160 days, after which one to three young are born. Young Barbary sheep are able to negotiate the steep, rocky terrain almost immediately after birth and will follow the mother until being weaned at three to four months. Barbary sheep can live up to 20 years in the wild.
Barbary sheep feed on grasses, forbs and shrubs. They can live off the moisture in their diet for long periods of time but will readily take fresh water when available.
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This page was last updated on October 23, 2014.