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The Barbary sheep is a horned sheep native to North America. They are also known as aoudad. This particular name (aoudad) is actually used by the Berbers, natives of North Africa. This species is seen in the isolated mountainous areas of North Africa. These animals belong to Bovidae family and they resemble much like wild goats. These animals are extremely lively and are indigenous to dry mountain ranges like desert.
Barbary sheep looks like the description given below.
Size: Barbary sheep stands 80-100 cm tall at the shoulder.
Color: Barbary sheep are sandy brown in color and have a darker line along the back. Upper parts and outer parts of the legs are uniformly reddish brown or grayish brown in color.
Weight: Barbary sheep weigh within 40 to 140 kg.
Horns: Both the sexes have heavy horns. Presence of those semi-circular horns that curve outward make these species look inimitable. The length of the horns grows up to 33 inches. Both fringe and horn are more prominent in the male. Their horns are made of keratin and these horns are permanent.
The four subspecies of Barbary sheep are-
- Egyptian Barbary sheep
- Ammotragus lervia sahareinsis
- Ammotragus lervia angusi
- Ammotragus lervia fassini
Range and Distribution
These sheep are found in the North African region. They are largely seen in Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Niger and so on. This species is also found in Spain. According to a recent survey, their population is expanding. Since the time of their introduction in Canara Islands, they have spread throughout the northern as well as the central parts of the island.
Barbary sheep prefer arid mountainous areas where they can graze and browse grass, bushes and lichens. They obtain all their moisture from the grass and woody plants.
They are mainly herbivorous and their diet includes 79 species of plant. Of these 13 are grass, 20 are shrubs, and the remainder forbs. They also diet on shrubs, flowers and leaves. This species prefer having leafy items which are rich in water content.
They do have some great adaptive features.
- Presence of double hooves and thick woolly coats keep them warm in cold climates.
- They are well adapted to the mountainous areas because their diet is comprised of vegetation.
- They can survive well in dry lands because they obtain moisture from the foods they have.
- Their strong horns help them fight against the predators.
These are some of its behavior patterns:
- Barbary sheep are extremely agile and are mainly seen jumping and climbing from one place to another.
- They are seen digging wallows with their horns just for fun.
- When threatened or attacked by the predators, they hide themselves by staying motionless.
- Females are aggressive in nature compared to the males.
The lambing season for this species starts in September and continues till November. But breeding can occur throughout the year.
Barbary sheep reach their sexual maturity after 18 months. The gestation period lasts for 160 days. The gestation period of the Barbary sheep is quite short for a species belonging to the Ammotragus genus. After the gestation period, the female gives birth to 1-2 kids. Females can become pregnant while still lactating (secretion of milk) a young.
The female gives birth to two-three cubs weighing near about 1.5-3 kg. Female Barbary remains together with the cubs in solitude for two or three days and after that the female joins back the herd. Cubs have mother’s milk for three-four months and it they reach sexual maturity after 1 year.
They usually have a life span of 20 years.
Barbary sheep’s are endangered and are listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Barbary sheep populations are quite healthy in some large protected national parks of southern Algeria. But in some parts, their populations are declining because of some habitat destruction.
There are actually more to know about this species. Let us have a quick glance at some of the interesting and unknown Barbary sheep facts :
- They are the most challenging species to hunt.
- They have excellent vision and are very cagey of people.
- Male Barbary sheep are called Rams and females are called Ewes.
- They have become so well established in America that there are concern that they may compete with the native bighorn sheep.
Here are a few Barbary sheep pictures for you to find out about their appearance.