INTERNATIONAL SHEEP (OVIS) SPECIES

Updated: Jun 8, 2019






AFGHAN URIAL

(Ovis vignei cycloceros [bocharensis])


LOCATION: Turkmenistan: From the Balkhan Mountains north of Nebitdag southeast through the Kopet Dag Mountains near the border with Iran, and in the mountains near the Afghanistan border as far east as southern Karabil. Uzbekistan: Far southeast. Tajikistan: Southwest, and also in the southwestern Pamirs. Afghanistan: Central, eastern and northeastern. Pakistan: West of the Indus River and north of Quetta, but south of Chitral. Boundaries with the TCU to the west are undetermined.  

DESCRIPTION: Shoulder height about 32 inches. Generally a small sheep weighing around 100 pounds.Overall color varies from reddish-buff to yellowish-brown. Rump patch and under parts are white, the face a bluish-gray. Rams have a white bib, long black neck ruff and a small black saddle spot in the winter coat. The horns are homonymous, triangular in cross section, and strongly wrinkled.


REMARKS: The first European to record moufloniforms in Asia was Marco Polo, who observed and described flocks of Afghan urials numbering as many as 500 in the Badakshan region of northern Afghanistan during his 1271-1274 journey from Europe to China.






ALTAY ARGALI

(Ovis ammon ammon)


LOCATION: Found mainly in the Altay Mountains of western Mongolia. Extends marginally northward into the Gorno-Altai and Tuva republics of Siberian Russia, westward into extreme northeastern Kazakhstan, and southwestward into northern Xinjiang, China.

DESCRIPTION: Shoulder height about 48 inches, possibly more. Weight 400-450 pounds, sometimes more. The largest wild sheep in the world, with the largest and most massive horns. The horns have rounded frontal edges, are heavily corrugated, and when fully developed will form more than a complete circle. The longest horns of record measured 71 3/4 inches. Bases exceeding 22 inches have been recorded. Horns and skull, without the lower jaw, can weigh as much as 75 pounds. General color in winter is light brown tinged with gray. Rump patch, belly, lower legs and face are white. Summer coat is much shorter and lighter, with the upper parts a uniformly speckled brown and white, and the rump patch only slightly lighter than the back.


REMARKS: The Altay argali is the largest of all wild sheep.

















AOUDAD OR BARBARY SHEEP

(Ammotragus lervia)


LOCATION: Free-ranging in parts of Texas, New Mexico, California and Mexico. Also on private properties, mainly in Texas, but also in a number of other U.S. states.

DESCRIPTION: 200-250 pounds. The aoudad is a strongly built animal, with a short mane on the neck and shoulders and long, flowing hair on the throat, chest, forelegs (where it forms pantaloons or chaps) and tail. Overall coloration is sandy-brown with the under parts paler. 

REMARKS: Native to the desert mountains in the Sahara region of northern Africa. In 1924, aoudad were released on the Hearst Ranch-mostly unfenced-in San Luis Obispo County, California, and have since populated nearby areas, where they have been hunted without legal protection. Introduced in 1950 in the Canadian River Canyon in New Mexico by the state game department, with hunting by drawn permit. Also found in the wild in southeastern New Mexico, mainly as the result of escapes from private enclosures. Occurs in the wild in Palo Duro Canyon south of Amarillo, Texas, as a result of state-sponsored releases, also elsewhere in Texas from private releases. Released in the wild in several places in Mexico. The aoudad is a superb game animal, exceptionally challenging when free-ranging and difficult even where fenced.

















ARMENIAN MOUFLON

(Ovis gmelini gmelini)


LOCATION: Found in Armenia, possibly the extreme southwestern tip of Azerbaijan, eastern Turkey, the northeastern corner of Iraq, and northwestern Iran east to Tabriz and south to the central Zagros Mountains. The first major reserve where the Armenian mouflon lives is Haftad Gholleh, which is near the town of Arak. If you examine the geography, you will see that Arak is about 150 miles southwest of Tehran and the traditional red sheep areas. For all practical purposes, the Armenian mouflons are located west and northwest of the city of Qom. A small free-ranging herd is presently found in West Texas on the Clayton Williams Ranch.

DESCRIPTION: Shoulder height 28-32 inches. Weight 100-140 pounds. A graceful sheep with relatively long, slender legs. General color is reddish-tan with a narrow, grayish-white saddle patch. Under parts, lower legs and muzzle are white. Chest is dark brown. There is a narrow brown flank band and brown markings on front of the upper legs. In winter, there is a short black ruff on the lower neck and brisket. No bib. Horns are supracervical, curving above and behind the neck.


REMARKS: In the last two decades, hunting in Iran for this species has been sporadic, depending on the political climate of Iran. There have been a few GSCO members who were able to hunt in Armenia recently and successfully take the Armenian mouflon. Most of the hunting for the Armenian mouflon occurs on the Williams Ranch in West Texas. These sheep are accepted toward the Ovis World Slam.





BLANFORD URIAL

(Ovis vignei blanfordi)


LOCATION: Pakistan; south of Quetta and west of the Indus River. May possibly extend into southeastern Iran.  

DESCRIPTION: Shoulder height up to 30 inches. Weight up to 80-90 pounds. Similar to the Afghan urial, but smaller, with a lesser bib and neck ruff and no distinct saddle patch.


REMARKS: This is one of the smallest sheep of the world and possibly as small as the Laristan mouflon. This sheep strictly inhabits arid hills.





CHINESE BLUE SHEEP

(Pseudois nayaur szechuanensis)


LOCATION: Central China, where it is found in central and eastern Qinghai, western Sichuan, Gansu, southwestern Ningxia. Boundaries with the Tibetan blue sheep to the west are unclear.  

DESCRIPTION: Compared with the Himalayan blue sheep, the body size is 10-20% smaller and the color is lighter, being a buffy-brown. Facial mask is a lighter brown, sides of face are whitish and sides of neck are light buff. There is less black on front of neck and chest, and the black lateral band is narrower and stops several inches behind the shoulder instead of almost joining the dark chest patch. The horn length and circumference are also 10-20% smaller, but the tip-to-tip measurement is usually much greater. Horns grow outward horizontally, with little downward curve, then turn backward with the tips inclined upward.


REMARKS: Chinese blue sheep are usually hunted at higher altitudes than any other game animal. This is especially true in early autumn before there is snow to drive them down. At this time of year they can be at 16,000-17,000 feet or even higher






CHUKOTKA SNOW SHEEP

(Ovis nivacola chuktchorum)


LOCATION: This subspecies of snow sheep is found in the Chukotka Autonomous Region of Russia. It is north of the Koryak and Magadan Regions, and east of Yakutia. Google Earth plainly shows the boundary between Koryak, Magadan, and Yakutia and the Chukotka Autonomous Region. The Chukotka region is vast, and in reality only a small portion of it is habitat for the sheep. It is believed that there are several different mountainous areas of Chukotka where the sheep can be found, but not in large numbers.

DESCRIPTION: They are about the same size as Dall sheep and Stone sheep. Chukotka sheep are much lighter than other snow sheep. As a thin horn sheep, the subspecies horns are rarely broomed. The Chukotka is one of the smallest bodied of the Russian snow sheep.


HABITAT: Steep, rugged terrain with nearby grassy pastures, in alpine and arctic regions.


REMARKS: In 2015, for the first time several GSCO members successfully hunted snow sheep in the Chukotka Autonomous Region of Russia. At present, the only hunting areas believed to have legal permits are the areas very near the borders with Magadan and possibly Koryak regions.




CORSICAN MOUFLON

(Ovis gmelini corsicano )


LOCATION: Canigou Massif, Pyrénées-Orientales Department, France. 

DESCRIPTION: The Corsican mouflon is a wild mountain sheep. The Corsican mouflon has never been hybridized and it is important to retain it as a separate species. This mouflon prefers open, mountainous country, covered with grassy or bushy vegetation. He is a Mediterranean hoofed animal who seeks steep slopes and rocks to protect himself from man and stray dogs.




CYPRIAN MOUFLON

(Ovis gmelini ophion)


LOCATION: Troodos Mountains, Cyprus

DESCRIPTION: The Cyprian mouflon is a wild mountain sheep found only on the island of Cyprus. It is a very agile mouflon which moves very fast on the steep slopes of the Paphos forest of Cyprus. The mature male Cyprian mouflon is a strong, well-built and beautiful animal. It has a thick and plentiful hide which in winter is of a light brown color, with light grey on the back and an elongated black patch round the neck. In summer its hide becomes short and smooth, with a uniform brown color and white underparts. The male mouflons have heavy horns in the shape of a sickle. The horn length of a mature animal is between 55 and 60 cm. The weight of the male is around 35 kg while the female weighs around 25 kg. Its height is around one meter. By all accounts, it is a very small, but stable herd and is increasing in number of sheep.


NOTES: To the best of our knowledge, there has only been one legally taken Cyprian mouflon and it was in 1972 by Rudolf Sand (Denmark). It is listed on Appendix I of CITES.




EJ Varos June 2019

DAGESTAN (EASTERN) TUR

(Capra cylindricornis)


LOCATION: Eastern part of the Caucasus Mountains east of Mt. Dykhtau. Habitat is usually in open, precipitous terrain at higher elevations as high as 12,000 feet, but may also be found lower down in thick forest. Descends to lower elevations in winter to escape heavy snow.  

BEHAVIOR: Gregarious, sometimes in large herds numbering several hundred. Prefers to feed on forbs and grasses, but will browse. Obtains water from small pools high in the mountains. An extremely good climber as are all goats.


DESCRIPTION: This animal is not a sheep, but a goat (ibex type). However, the horns resemble the blue sheep enough to have interested sheep hunters for a long time. Shoulder height 31-39 inches. Weight 120-175 pounds, sometimes to 220 pounds. Somewhat smaller and decidedly darker in color than the west Caucasian tur. The coat is uniformly reddish-brown in summer, with under parts whitish and the tail, breast and lower legs darker. Turns a uniform dark brown in winter, with under parts slightly lighter and the tail, breast and lower legs much darker. There is a small white rump patch. Beard is dark and very short (up to three inches) and difficult to detect in some animals. The horns are quite unusual for a goat, being smooth and rounded, curving above and behind the neck (supracervical), with the tips turning inward and upward; they are quite similar to those of the Himalayan blue sheep but are more massive.


REMARKS: The Ovis World Slam includes this tur and it also counts toward the Capra World Slam.The Dagestan (Eastern) tur, like all tur, is a very fine and sporting game animal. It is hunted in steep, high mountains where good physical condition is a must, long shots may be required, and even an average trophy is something to be proud of. Weather in this region is much better than in the western Caucasus.




DWARF BLUE SHEEP

(Pseudois schaeferi)


LOCATION: Dwarf blue sheep have a limited distribution in the upper Yangtze River Gorge near Leh and Drupalong and south of Batang in western Sichuan and southeastern Tibet. They are usually found at elevations of 8,500-10,500 feet, and are cut off from the blue sheep populations of the upper grassy altitudes of the same regions by a thick, scrubby forest 3-4 miles across and covering 1,500 feet of elevation.

DESCRIPTION: Much smaller than other forms of blue sheep, with a drab coloration and very small horns. Shoulder heights are 20-31 inches, and weights of 55-85 pounds. The summer coat is a dull brownish-gray, with the head, neck, dorsal area, tail tip, and front of legs darker. Under parts, inside of legs, and inside of ears are whitish, and there is a light ring around the eyes. The winter coat is bright silver-gray, with the colors more pronounced, and there is a black stripe separating flanks from belly. The horns are much smaller than in other blue sheep.


REMARKS: Western science knows relatively little about this isolated animal. However, in 1988, a Chinese scientific expedition conducted a field study and determined it should be ranked as a distinct species, rather than a subspecies. Locals believe July is the best time to hunt these animals, because then the grass is better at lower elevations (8,200 feet) and the blue sheep descend to feed on it.




ESFAHAN MOUFLON

(Ovis gmelini isphahonica)


LOCATION: The Esfahan mouflon is found only in Iran, in the mountains near Esfahan, up to about halfway between the city of Arak and south to the city of Marvdasht, which is just north of the city of Shiraz. The city of Esfahan is in a bit of a valley on the eastern side of the Zagros Mountains. All but two of the hunting reserves in the area are found west and south of Esfahan. These two are very important, because they each have lots of sheep. The nearest one is only about 30 miles away, and is called Ghamishloo. It is well within the proposed Esfahan boundary. The other is the well-known Mooteh Reserve. It is nearly 100 miles northwest of Esfahan and lies between the towns of Kashan (to the east) and Golpaygan (to the west).

DESCRIPTION: In winter, males have a full-length black neck ruff extending to the brisket. There is no bib. Saddle patch, muzzle, chin, throat and lower part of legs are white. The horns appear to be of two types: Those from the Mooteh Wildlife Reserve, about 80 miles northeast of Esfahan, are supracervical or perverted, which is to say they curve above and behind the neck as do those of the Armenian mouflon; those from the Tange-Sayad and Kolah-Gazi wildlife refuges, which are within 90 miles southwest and southeast, respectively, of Esfahan are cervical, with the tips growing inward toward the neck.


REMARKS: This sheep has many characteristics of the Armenian mouflon, but has had enough influence over time from the Laristan mouflon and Shiraz mouflon to be distinctly different from the Armenian mouflon. Horns sweep down more than the Armenian, and the coloration is slightly different as well, having a distinct mouflon look to the cape.




GANSU ARGALI

(Ovis ammon dalailamae)


LOCATION: China, where it is found in the Altun Mountains of Xinjiang, and the Qilian Mountains in Gansu and adjacent parts of Qinghai.  

DESCRIPTION: Shoulder height about 45 inches, weight 200-220 pounds. The winter coat is chestnut-brown on the back, grayish-brown on the sides, with the underparts, rump and inside of legs white. A dark streak extends down the front of the legs. The head is brown, the muzzle white. Rams have a long, white ruff that almost surrounds the neck. The horns are heavy and tightly curled, with little or no flare.


REMARKS: Chinese authorities agree that this argali is known to be plentiful, even though both CITES and the USF&WS consider the Gansu argali a form of Tibetan argali, under which they list it, respectively, on Appendix I and as endangered.




GOBI ARGALI

(Ovis ammon darwini)


LOCATION: The Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia (south of latitude 45° and east of longitude 97°) and northern China.  

DESCRIPTION: Weight 300 pounds or more. One of the largest argalis, with horns similar to those of an Altay argali, being nearly as massive but a little shorter. Upper parts are a variegated yellowish-brown; the flanks and front of thighs are a more uniform darker brown.


REMARKS: Most of the rams found in the Gobi Desert have a true “desert look” to them. In past years, many rams taken from the Hangay Mountains (north of the Gobi Desert) have been called Gobi argalis. Rarely do Gobi argalis reach 18” bases. However, in recent years there have been a few specimens with horns over 50” in length. This is attributable to low hunting pressure in the Gobi regions. Horn lengths of 45” and less are more common.




HANGAY ARGALI

(Ovis ammon ssp [hangaii])


LOCATION: The range of the Hangay argali includes not only Öshig Mountain, but also the rest of the Hangay Range to the north. Map coordinates are roughly 45° 30' N x 101° 30' E. Öshig Mountain is south of the town of Bayanteeg and north of Baruunbayan in South Hangay Province

DESCRIPTION: Weight 350 pounds or more. One of the largest argalis, with horns similar to those of an Altay argali, being nearly as massive but a little shorter (and larger than the Gobi argali). Upper parts are a variegated yellowish-brown; the flanks and front of thighs are a more uniform darker brown.


REMARKS: The Hangay argali category was established in 1997 for record-keeping purposes. During the first half of the 1980s, many hunters took rams in this area, which was then advertised as the "mid-Altay." They were told they were hunting Altay argalis that were a little smaller than those in the West Altay, but at lower prices. Then in the 1990s other hunters were taken to the same mountain to hunt what they were told were very large Gobi argalis at premium prices.




HELAN SHAN BLUE SHEEP

(Pseudois nayaur ssp)


LOCATION: Helan Shan Mountains on the border of Inner Mongolia and Ningxia.

DESCRIPTION: Compared with the Himalayan blue sheep, the body size is smaller and the color is lighter, being a buffy-brown. Facial mask is a lighter brown, sides of face are whitish and sides of neck are light buff. There is considerable black on front of neck and chest as compared to the Chinese blue sheep, and the black lateral band stops several inches behind the shoulder instead of almost joining the dark chest patch. The horn length and circumference are smaller than the Chinese blue sheep. Horns grow outward horizontally, with a downward curve, and most recorded are heavily broomed.


REMARKS: During an expedition in spring 1996, more than 800 blue sheep were observed in herds of up to 30 individuals. China closed hunting in 2006 and there are only eight blue sheep recorded in the SCI Record Book coming from the Helan Shan Mountains, most of which were taken between 2004 and 2006.




HIMALAYAN BLUE SHEEP

(Pseudois nayaur nayaur)


LOCATION: The Himalayan region of northeastern Pakistan, northwestern India, Nepal and Bhutan; scattered populations throughout Tibet; southern Xinjiang and western Qinghai (China); and extreme northwestern Yunnan (China) west of the Yangtze River. Boundaries with the Chinese blue sheep to the east are unclear. Hunting for this subspecies is limited to Nepal and Pakistan, as the other countries where it occurs do not allow it to be hunted at present.  

DESCRIPTION: Body size is 10-20% larger than the Chinese blue sheep. Color is generally darker. It has a darker brown facial mask with black neck and chest, and a thicker black lateral band that almost joins the dark black chest patch. Horn length and circumference are 10-20% larger than the Chinese blue sheep, with the horns growing outward horizontally and downward.


REMARKS: The blue sheep tends to run in herds of tens and up to 200 animals. The Himalayan blue sheep of Pakistan are hunted up to 15,000 feet, where the blue sheep in Nepal are hunted up to 16,500 feet. The hunting in Nepal is conducted solely in the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve of north central Nepal

















HUME ARGALI

(Ovis ammon humei)


LOCATION: Kyrgyzstan; with the Naryn River as the northern boundary and the height of land of the Ferganskiy Mountains as the southern boundary.

DESCRIPTION: It can weigh up to 300 pounds. Although similar to the Marco Polo argali in size and coloration, its horns are shorter, heavier, and have less flare.


REMARKS: There has been a controversy for many years about this particular argali. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recognizes only two subspecies from Kyrgyzstan, the Tian Shan argali (found north of the Naryn River) and the Marco Polo (found south of the Naryn River). However, many knowledgeable hunters and scientists contend that there are three different subspecies of argalis in Kyrgyzstan. The GSCO trophy classification committee decided in January 2003 to officially recognize the Hume argali, although SCI still lists it under the Marco Polo argali category. This argali is importable into the U.S. as a Marco Polo.




HYBRID SHEEP (CORSICAN)

(Ovis sp)


LOCATION: Free-ranging in parts of California and Hawaii. Also on private properties in Texas and elsewhere; but would be better suited to use “world” as the location where these sheep can be located.

DESCRIPTION: Weight can vary from 80-225 pounds. Usually these animals are hybrids of European mouflon and domestic sheep. Large and spectacular horns can result from carefully managed crosses. Color phases are also developed, the white “Texas Dall” and black “Hawaiian ram” being examples. Unfortunately (or fortunately), almost any Ovis species will crossbreed. Texas made Corsican sheep famous, as there are numerous crosses. They had to be called something, and Corsican was the name that stuck. Mouflon genetics are found in the majority of these crosses, and one can see some most handsome and impressive rams in Texas and other states (or countries).


REMARKS: Unfortunately (or fortunately), almost any Ovis species will crossbreed. Texas made Corsican sheep famous, as there are numerous crosses. They had to be called something, and Corsican was the name that stuck. Mouflon genetics are found in the majority of these crosses, and one can see some most handsome and impressive rams in Texas and other states (or countries).




KAMCHATKA SNOW SHEEP

(Ovis nivicola nivicola)


LOCATION: The Kamchatka Peninsula of Siberia, south of the low-lying isthmus that occurs at about latitude 60°N.

DESCRIPTION: Usually darker in color than the other snow sheep and lacking a white (or light) forehead patch. Horns on average have heavier bases than the mainland snow sheep. Color is grayish-brown or grizzled. The white rump patch is rather small and is divided by a dark stripe that continues down the tail. Muzzle is white, but the brown facial band, which so strongly characterizes the Verkhoyansk population to the west, is almost lost. Head and neck may show a varying degree of grayish-white. The horns protrude outward, around and down in almost 1-1/2 curls to perfect, unbroomed tips.


HABITAT: Steep, rugged terrain with nearby grassy pastures, in alpine and arctic region.


REMARKS: Sometimes incorrectly called Kamchatka bighorn, but it is actually a thin horn, the same as other snow sheep and also the Dall and Stone sheep of North America.




KARA TAU ARGALI