The Barbary Sheep (Ammotragus lervia), also known as the aoudad, is a horned sheep native to North Africa. It is currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and several of its cousins are currently extinct.
The Barbary Sheep is still located in very isolated mountainous areas in North Africa, but it was introduced to the United States in the early 1900s, at first only raised in zoos and private sanctuaries. In 1950, the first animals were released into the wild, and they settled in to New Mexico. More were released in Texas around 1957, where they continue to thrive. Currently, there are large populations of Barbary Sheep found in Spain, California, Texas, and New Mexico, but they are harder to find in their native Sahara Desert. Barbary Sheep are indigenous to dry mountain ranges, usually deep in the desert. They are extremely agile, jumping from stone to stone and climbing steep inclines.
Well suited to their desert environment, the Barbary Sheep has a light, reddish-brown coat that blends well with the sandy rocks of the desert mountains. The most distinguishing feature of the Barbary Sheep is the long, bushy tuft of hair that covers their neck and chest, sometimes covering a portion of the legs as well. On average, aoudads reach a shoulder height of 30-44 inches (75-112 cm), and the males have huge horns that almost touch in the front and curve up and over the back, growing to a length of 33 inches (84 cm). The female also has horns, but they are much smaller, only reaching a length of about 20 inches (51 cm). The males can weigh up to 300 pounds (136 kg) and the females about 150 pounds (68 kg).
Barbary Sheep are grazers and can get moisture from unlikely places, such as early-morning dew and the woody plants and grasses that they eat. They are usually most active at dawn and dusk, choosing to rest during the hottest parts of the day. They can go without water for an extended period, getting all of the moisture that they need from their food, but, if water is available, they will bathe in it and drink liberally.
The aoudad will live in small family groups, usually with one dominant male for a group of females. The males compete for breeding dominance, but young and old males will often live together peacefully in the same group. Females usually reach sexual maturity at about 15 months of age, but it usually takes up to three years before the males are able to breed. The prime breeding time is usually from October to December, and the pregnancies last around 160 days. The female will often give birth to twins, although, if conditions are good and food is plentiful, it is possible to produce three offspring.