AppearanceBarbary sheep stand 80 to 100 cm tall at the shoulder and weigh 40 to 140 kg . 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 and a sparse mane. Their horns have a triangular cross section. The horns curve outwards, backwards, then inwards, and reach up to 50 cm . The horns are fairly smooth, with slight wrinkles evident at the base as the animal matures.
NamingThe binomial name ''Ammotragus lervia'' derives from the Greek ''ammos'' and ''tragos'' . ''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'' is the name for this sheep used by the Berbers, a North African people, and it is also called ''arui'' and ''waddan'' .
DistributionBarbary sheep have been introduced to southeastern Spain, the southwestern United States , Niihau Island , 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. This species is a potential competitor to native ungulates inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula. The species has also been introduced to La Palma , and has spread throughout the northern and central parts of the island, where it is a serious threat to endemic vegetation.
HabitatBarbary 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 . 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.
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