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Barbary sheep

Barbary sheep
Barbary Sheep
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Ammotragus
Blyth, 1840
Species: A. lervia
Binomial name
Ammotragus lervia
Pall., 1777

A. l. angusi Rothschild, 1921
A. l. blainei Rothschiild, 1913
A. l. lervia Pallas, 1777
A. l. fassini Lepri, 1930
A. l. ornatusI. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1827
A. l. sahariensis Rothschild, 1913


Antilope lervia[2]
Capra lervia[3]

The Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) is a species of caprid (goat-antelope) native to rocky mountains in North Africa. Six subspecies have been described. Although it is rare in its native North Africa, it has been introduced to North America, southern Europe, and elsewhere. It is also known as aoudad, waddan, arui, and arruis.


  • Description 1
  • Range 2
    • Natural range 2.1
    • Introduced populations 2.2
  • Taxonomy 3
  • Habitats 4
  • Names 5
  • Gallery 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • External links 9


Barbary sheep stand 80 to 100 cm (2.6 to 3.3 ft) tall at the shoulder and weigh 40 to 140 kg (88 to 309 lb). They are a sandy-brown color, darkening with age, with a slightly lighter underbelly and a darker line along the back. Upper parts and the outer parts of the legs are a uniform reddish-brown or grayish-brown. There is some shaggy hair on the throat (extending down to the chest in males) and a sparse mane. Their horns have a triangular cross section. The horns curve outwards, backwards, then inwards, and reach up to 50 cm (20 in). The horns are fairly smooth, with slight wrinkles evident at the base as the animal matures.


Natural range

Barbary sheep are naturally occurring in northern Africa in Algeria, Tunisia, northern Chad, Egypt, Libya, northern Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger and Sudan (west of the Nile, and in the Red Sea Hills east of the Nile).[4]

Introduced populations

In the London Zoo

Barbary sheep have been introduced to southeastern Spain, the southwestern United States (Chinati Mountains on La Escalera Ranch, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Palo Duro Canyon, the Trans-Pecos, and other parts of Texas, New Mexico, and California), Niihau Island (Hawaii), Mexico, and some parts of Africa.

Barbary sheep have become common in a limited region of the south-east of Spain, since its introduction in 1970 to Sierra Espuña [Regional park] as a game species. Its adaptability enabled it to colonise nearby areas quickly, and private game estates provided other centers of dispersion. The species is currently expanding, according to recent field surveys, now being found in the provinces of Alicante, Almería, Granada, and Murcia.[5] This species is a potential competitor to native ungulates inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula. The species has also been introduced to La Palma (Canary Islands), and has spread throughout the northern and central parts of the island, where it is a serious threat to endemic vegetation.



A. lervia is the only species in the genus Ammotragus. However, some authors include this genus in the goat genus Capra, together with the sheep genus Ovis.[3]

The subspecies are found allopatrically in various parts of North Africa:[4]

  • A. l. lervia Pallas, 1777 (vulnerable)
  • A. l. ornata I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1827 (Egyptian Barbary sheep, thought to be extinct in the wild but still found in the eastern desert of Egypt)
  • A. l. sahariensis Rothschild, 1913 (vulnerable)
  • A. l. blainei Rothschild, 1913 (vulnerable)
  • A. l. angusi Rothschild, 1921 (vulnerable)
  • A. l. fassini Lepri, 1930 (vulnerable)


Barbary Sheep

Barbary sheep are found in arid mountainous areas where they graze and browse grasses, bushes, and lichens. They are able to obtain all their moisture from food, but if liquid water is available, they drink it and wallow in it. Barbary sheep are crepuscular: active in the early morning and late afternoon and resting in the heat of the day. They are very agile and can achieve a standing jump of over 2 metres (7 ft). Barbary sheep flee at the first sign of danger.They are well adapted to their habitats which consist of steep rocky mountains and canyons. When threatened, they always run up and bounce back and forth over the tops of the mountains to elude predators below. They stay in rough, steep country because they are more suited to the terrain than any of their predators. Aoudad are extremely nomadic and travel constantly via mountain ranges. Their main predators in North Africa were the Barbary leopard, the Barbary lion, and caracal, but nowadays only humans threaten their populations.


The binomial name Ammotragus lervia derives from the Greek ammos ("sand", referring to the sand-coloured coat) and tragos ("goat"). Lervia derives from the wild sheep of northern Africa described as "lerwee" by Rev. T. Shaw in his "Travels and Observations" about parts of Barbary and Levant.

The Spanish named this sheep the arruis, and the Spanish Legion even used it as a mascot for a time.

Aoudad ([ˈɑː.uːdæd]) is the name for this sheep used by the Berbers, a North African people, and it is also called arui and waddan (in Libya).

A group of Aoudad is referred to as an "Anger".



  1. ^ Cassinello, J., Cuzin, F., Jdeidi, T., Masseti, M., Nader, I. & de Smet, K. (2008). Ammotragus lervia. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 11 November 2008. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of Vulnerable C1.
  2. ^  
  3. ^ a b  
  4. ^ a b  
  5. ^ Cassinello, J.; Serrano, E.; Calabuig, G. & Pérez, J.M. (2004). Range expansion of an exotic ungulate (Ammotragus lervia) in southern Spain: ecological and conservation concerns. Biodiversity and Conservation 13: 851-866


  • Cassinello, J. (1998). Ammotragus lervia: a review on systematics, biology, ecology and distribution. Annales Zoologici Fennici 35: 149-162
  • Wacher, T., Baha El Din, S., Mikhail, G. & Baha El Din, M. (2002). New observations of the "extinct" Aoudad Ammotragus lervia ornata in Egypt. Oryx 36: 301–304.

External links

  • A Spanish site on complete biological information about the Aoudad
  • The Ultimate Ungulate entry on Barbary Sheep
  • Barbary Sheep in Texas
  • Barbary Sheep in Sahara
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