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Barbary Sheep

  • Animals

Introduction to the Barbary Sheep

The Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) is an incredible mammal and fascinating member of the Bovidae family that has adapted to and flourished the dry and arid lands of northern Africa and western and southern Asia. Its ruggedness can be linked directly to its thick wooly coat and strong curved horns, which have made it a top predator in its environment. The Barbary sheep also has an impressive history, with Europe having obtained Barbary sheep as decorated hunting trophies from North Africa during the 16th century.

Physical Appearances and Characteristics

Large and imposing, the Barbary sheep has a thick coat of wool, that is yellowish brown in color and longer on the stomach, neck and rump. The coat often appears blackish in the winter months before shedding into a tawny brown in the hot summer months, when temperatures increase. This mammal is most easily identified by its large, curved horns which can become quite large on the males and serve an informative purpose by representing the age, health and general dominance of the individual.

The Barbary sheep has very sharp and large eyes that provide a wide array of vision, which is vital to its survival in a highly competitive and volatile habitat. Straight below the eyes, on both sides of the muzzle, are white markings that are presented in successive lines and serve to instantly attract attention and ward off predators.

Behavior and Diet

Barbary sheep are quite active in their habitats, especially during the morning hours. They tend to move in packs on rocky terrain and often feed on the softest grass the environment has to offer. During the summer months, Barbary sheep move often, which helps to maintain the health of the herd. They rely on vegetation for their meals, but have also been known to feed on insects, roots and mushrooms.

The Barbary sheep is very social and lives in packs of up to 10 individuals, with males and females generally living in separate groups and occasionally coming together for mating. When arriving at a new location, Barbary sheep take a few minutes to survey the area before the climb and feed.

Barbary Sheep two

Predators and Threats

The Barbary sheep faces quite a few predators in its environment that can harm their population, including hyenas, wolves, leopards and pumas. Human hunting of Barbary sheep has also had an effect on their populations but has lessened in recent decades.

This mammal has an incredible ability to adapt and survive, but humans remain its most serious threat. Habitat loss and fragmentation remain the most pressing issues the species currently faces. The destruction of grasslands and pasturelands are the primary contributors to its decline.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Unlike most other animals, most mating typically takes place in the wintertime during early March to late April. Females reach sexual maturity at around 2 years old, while males reach maturity around the age of 4.

Barbary Sheep give birth to live young between April to June and with most births occurring in the later months of May. The longevity of Barbary sheep is impressive and can range anywhere from 10-15 years in the wild.


The Barbary sheep is an incredible mammal and fascinating member of the Bovidae family which faces some serious threats due to destruction of its natural grasslands and pasturelands. Its success in this environment is marked by its large, curved horns and its impressive longevity. The Barbary sheep has an impressive life history and is an important part of its environment.

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