- A-Z Animals
The Mouflon, also known as urial, is a wild sheep found in many parts of the world and are widely regarded as the ancestor of modern-day domestic sheep, a process that started between 7000 – 11,000 years ago in the southwestern regions of Asia. The population of this sheep is decreasing rapidly; nonetheless, they are still hunted in the wild for their characteristic trophy horns.
Size: The head to tail length is around 110 – 145 cm.
Height: They stand at the height of around 0.9 m at the shoulders.
Weight: Males are slightly heavier at around 50 kg, while the females are around 35.
Body & Coat: Their long, slender legs display a vertical black line below the knees, while the belly is mostly white. The coat is made of long, coarse hair especially in the males. The color can vary from grey with a reddish hue, to brown and coffee. In the European population, the males are dark chestnut, while the females are beige.
Horns: Usually the males have large horns, which is around 25 inches in length, and are spiral or curved over their heads (which the females lack as a major sexual dimorphism).
In the wild, the longevity of the males is 8 to 10 years, and females is 10 to 12 years. They have been known to live for as long as 22.8 years in captivity.
Biologists have disputes regarding the scientific classification of the species. While some claim that the mouflon is a subspecies of the domestic sheep, others consider them as a species by itself, and the ancestor of the modern-day domestic sheep. However, the MSW3 (Mammal Species of the World) has classified them under five subspecies, based on their range and characteristics as follows:
These sheep are found in a wide variety of habitats, depending upon their range, from temperate mountain forests to desert conditions that include grassland chaparral forests, desert or dune savanna, as well as scrub forest mountains.
The mouflons are normally shy animals that come out from for foraging mostly in the evening or early morning. They would also not stay at one place for long.
During the day, they usually rest under overhanging bush or rocks, making sure they are well hidden so as to stay safe from the sudden attack of predators.
They are gregarious creatures, spending most of the time moving and grazing in non-territorial herds. They have highly developed herding or flocking instinct and can move in very large groups of up to even 1000 or more.
Many individuals develop special bonds with others and often become stressed if separated, and are seen searching for them, calling and pawing at the ground.
Like the domestic sheep, mouflons mostly graze on grasses rather than consuming plant matters like leaves and fruits from shrubs or trees, unless there is a scarcity of grass in their habitat.
The two sexes live in separate groups and only mingle during mating season. The rut or estrous cycle of the female normally falls in late September and early October, with one, sometimes two, lambs being born after a gestation period of five to six months, usually around March.
While competing for a ewe (female mouflon), the dominance of a ram (male mouflon) is determined by its age, as well as the size of the horns. While fighting, two males would crash their horns together to display dominance.
In order to initiate mating, the male would approach the female, and if the latter is interested in the act, the former would display a short mating ritual and would ride the female. After a successful mating, the ewe will undergo a gestation period of about 146 days (average).
Before birth, the female would go into cover to give birth to its offspring. The ewes generally give birth to one lamb; however, in some cases, they would also deliver twins. The newly born young animal takes only a few minutes’ time to be up on its feet.
The mother takes care of the young ones until they are weaned and ready to forage for themselves. The young ones, both males and females, attain the age of sexual maturity at about two to three years. However, it is unlikely for the males to reproduce before they are four years of age.
The natural predators of these animals were bears and wolves that have disappeared from their range. Foxes, eagles, and leopards do pose a threat to them, depending upon the subspecies.
The IUCN 3.1 has declared these animals as ‘VU’ (Vulnerable), considering their quick decrease in population rate.