Barbary Sheep (Ammotragus lervia)



Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family:    Bovidae
Size:    Height: 2.5 to 3.5 feet (0.7 to 1 m) Length: 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 m)
Weight: 200 to 300 pounds (100 to 136 kg)
Diet: Grass and plants
Distribution: Africa, Europe, North America
Young:  One or two, sometimes three, up to twice per year
Animal Predators:  Leopards and caracals
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Terms: Male: Ram   Female: Ewe    Young: Lamb
Lifespan: Approximately 10 years in the wild and up to 20 years or more in captivity 



·       The scientific name is Greek: Ammos—sand, which refers to the colour; tragos—a goat.

·       This sheep is also known as an aoudad (pronounced “a-OO-dad” or “OW-dad”).

·       Barbary sheep are the only sheep native to Africa.

·       Ecologists are worried that Barbary sheep introduced to the Rocky Mountains will cause competition for food with native Bighorn sheep.  



Barbary sheep are fairly large sheep with horns that rise above their head, curving back and then in towards the neck. Both males and females have horns, but those of the male are larger. Their sandy brown fur is short and bristly, with lighter coloured underparts. A fringe of long hair runs from their throat to their chest and ends on their forelegs at the knees. Their body is thick and sturdy. 



Barbary sheep originated in a region of North Africa once called the Barbary Coast, because of the native people who lived there—the Berbers. They have been introduced to Germany, Italy, Spain and southwestern United States—namely Texas, California and New Mexico.


Feeding Habits

Barbary sheep eat a large variety of vegetation, including grass and plants. Though all the moisture they need comes from their food, Barbary sheep will drink large amounts when near a water source.



Mating occurs between September and November and pregnancy lasts about five months. Before giving birth, the expectant mother leaves the family herd to find a secluded area where she and the lambs will be safe from predators. Newborn lambs weigh between two to six pounds (one to three kg) and can climb almost immediately after they are born. They are weaned at three to four months and can mate by two years of age. 



When danger approaches, Barbary sheep remain motionless and their brown acts as camouflage against a sandy background. They are active during the day, grazing during the morning and late afternoon, but resting in shade during the hot midday. When near water, Barbary sheep bathe and then roll in sand to keep their coats clean and free from parasites. Female Barbary sheep live in small family herds while males live in bachelor groups. During mating season, males will fight each other for the opportunity to join a female herd, running at each other’s heads with their horns. These fights end when one male concedes to the other, and rarely result in injury. They are extremely agile climbers and escape from predators by scaling steep rocky slopes. They can also leap over six feet (1.8 m) from a standing position, and practice their talents by running and leaping together.



These animals are only considered vulnerable in their native area, Africa, particularly in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco where their population has been depleted due to overhunting. Because they have been introduced to other areas in the wild, their overall population is stable. 



Barbary Sheep Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US