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Barbary Sheep (Ammotragus lervia)


Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammal

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Subfamily: Caprinae

Genus: Ammotragus

Species: A. lervia

Description 

Ammotragus lervia is a relatively large sheep. The main pelage of the Barbary sheep is brown; however, the chin, throat, chest, and insides of the front limbs are covered with long, white hair. This white hair is called the ventral mane and appears as if the sheep had a beard. Sexual dimorphism is evident. Males can be up to 145 kg, while females are much smaller, the largest are up to 65 kg. Both males and females have horns that curve outward, backward, and point inward toward the neck. Females' horns are smaller, but have the same shape.

Range and Habitat

Barbary sheep, also called auodads, originated in the hills of the Sahara and have inhabited all the major mountains of North Africa. In the late 1800s, Barbary sheep were introduced into Europe, including Germany and Italy.

Ammotragus lervia is endemic to the mountains of Northern Africa. It has also survived in the mountains and canyons of the dry southwestern United States. Barbary sheep live in the desert mountains from sea level up to the edge of the snows. Barbary sheep are also well adapted to a dry climate. They are able to survive long periods of time without fresh water intake by using metabolic water.

Behavior

Barbary sheep have a very distinct threat posture used in intraspecific conflicts. They direct their horns toward the animal with which they are in conflict. Aggressive behavior is also shown by two other acts. One is the head-on charge, when two males charge into each other making contact with their horns. The other type of aggressive behavior is more similar to wrestling. The males butt their heads or hook their horns and then twist and make gouging movements. Females have been seen to fight, but they rarely perform the head-on charge. Unlike many of their relatives, Barbary sheep do not kick

Diet

Barbary sheep are herbivorous, feeding on a variety of vegetation such as grass, forbs, and shrubs. Seasonal variation plays a role in determining their diet. In the winter, grass makes up the majority of food intake, while shrubs are the more common food the rest of the year.

Reproduction

Breeding usually occurs from September through November, but the timing can vary. Gestation lasts about 160 days, so most lambs are born between March and May. However, births have been seen as late as November. Most births produce a single offspring, but twins are born one out of every six or seven births.

The timing of sexual maturity varies among males. Sperm were found in one male at eleven months; however, this is probably not the norm. Females are considered sexually mature at 19 months; however, females as young as 8 months of age have produced offspring.

Conservation Status

The species listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Vulnerable.