Mouflon are wild sheep, a species regarded as one of the two original ancestors of modern-day sheep. Their coat is reddish-brown and short-haired, and a dark stripe runs along their back, with lighter colored patches on the side. They are very wary animals. The males have large horns of a sickle shape, prized by many trophy hunters. Females have horns too, but much smaller ones than those of males. The adult males develop a large ruff of coarse long hair on their chest, which is white at the throat, becoming black towards the forelegs.
- Kingdom Animalia
Mouflon inhabit certain countries in central Asia, in the west from Turkey and Mediterranean islands, eastwards to Pakistan. In addition, they were introduced as game animals in Western Europe, U.S., Argentina and Chile. They generally occur in mountainous areas that have both desert and grasslands. In winter, mouflons migrate to lower altitudes.
Habits and lifestyle
Males and female mouflon live in separate groups, only coming together for the mating season. The dominance of a ram depends on his age and how big his horns are. Fights between rams about their harem of ewes rarely cause serious injuries, and the winner does not make any further attacks. The two contestants will graze alongside each other, with the winner every now and again initiating an "appeasement ceremony" where he presents his neck to be licked by the other ram, sometimes kneeling for this purpose. Mouflon usually feed early in the day as well as during the evening, and will rest during the day where they can be well hidden, under an overhanging rock or bush. The ewes usually have the better foraging areas because their health is of more importance for reproduction.
drift, drove, flock, fold, herd, mob, trip
Diet and nutrition
Mouflon graze on grasses, but if food is scarce they will browse leaves and fruits.
Mouflon are polygynous, and rams will fight each other to achieve dominance and win the opportunity to mate with the females. Mouflon mate from autumn to early winter. Gestation lasts around 210 days, with one to three two lambs born in April. The ewe goes into cover to give birth, and the newborn is on its feet within a few minutes, and soon after birth it can run about. A lamb remains closely tied to its mother, suckling every 10 to 15 minutes. Mouflon are sexually mature after about two to three years.
Mouflon are threatened by expanding agriculture and farming, which has reduced population numbers and dispersed individuals into small, fragmented groups. Overgrazing throughout their range due to the expansion of sheep farming has resulted in erosion, reducing this species' suitable habitat. Consequently, pressure on hunting is high, which leads to a fragmented distribution. Parasites and contagious diseases from domestic livestock, especially domestic sheep, in many areas are a major threat. Poachers take adult rams for the value of their horns as trophies, and lambs are sometimes poached at birth to become pets.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total global population of the mouflon has not been estimated. There are only about 3,000 animals in Cyprus (according to the Wikipedia resource). Mouflon numbers are decreasing today and they are classified as vulnerable (VU) on the list of threatened species.
Fun facts for kids
- Beneath their eyes, mouflon have large glands, which often release a sticky substance which mats their wool.
- A mouflon has muscular legs and a stocky body, which helps it to move about steep terrains.
- A mouflon's horns grow throughout its life. Their size determines the status of the animal within the group, with larger horns ensuring a higher position and therefore greater dominance.
- Mouflon regurgitate their food to chew it a few times before it is ready to be intestinally digested.
- Mouflon are a nomadic species, often moving to seek new areas for food. During winter they migrate to lower altitudes to avoid the very low temperatures and scarcity of food.
- Mouflon are shy animals and don't stay for long in one place.