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Barbary sheep are the only wild sheep from Africa
Geographical Region: Africa
- Distribution & Habitat
- Description & Behaviour
- Threats & Conservation
- Interesting information
Distribution & Habitat
Native to Northern Africa, Barbary Sheep are found in rough, rocky, barren, waterless desert and mountains.
Description & Behaviour
Barbary sheep are the only wild sheep from Africa.
Barbary sheep are excellent, sure-footed jumpers and climbers. Their heavy horns help them with balance. They have an exceptional ability to hide by remaining motionless when threatened.
Barbary sheep have a mane of long, soft hairs on the throat, chest and upper parts of the forelegs, especially males. Both sexes have heavy horns.
Barbary Sheep stand 80-100cm tall at the shoulder and weigh 40-140kg. They are a sandy-brown colour, which darkens with age.
Although breeding can occur throughout the year, the main rutting season is from September to November. After a gestation period of 160 days, the female gives birth to 1-3 kids, which are weaned at 3-4 months and will reach sexual maturity after 18 months. A female may give birth twice per year
Barbary sheep eat grass, herbaceous plants and stunted bushes. They can get sufficient water from vegetation, dew on leaves during cold desert nights and “respiration water”, meaning they do not need to drink.
Threats & Conservation
Barbary sheep populations have declined drastically over much of their native range due to hunting for their skins, meat, and sinew.
In some areas where Barbary sheep have been introduced, there is concern that they may compete with the native fauna.
- "Aoudad" is the name for this sheep used by the Berbers, a North African people.
- Goat or a sheep? If a male animal has the familiar beard, or goatee, then he's probably a goat; male sheep don't have beards. Also, a male sheep's horns usually curl and a goat's are straight. But, of course, there are exceptions, with male Barbary sheep looking like a mixture of both (they have beards and curled horns!).
- Barbary sheep can jump over 1.8 meters straight up from a standing position.
- The horns are made of keratin, like our fingernails, and they are permanent, growing throughout the animal's lifetime. A growth ring is deposited each winter.
- Goats belong to the genus Capra and have 60 chromosomes, while sheep belong to the genus Ovis and have 54 chromosomes. This mismatch of chromosomes means any offspring of a sheep-goat pairing is generally stillborn. Despite widespread shared pasturing of goats and sheep, hybrids are poorly attested, indicating the genetic distance between the two species.