General information

Mountain sheep


The size of the ram is from 1.4 to 1.8 meters. Depending on the species, the weight of the ram ranges from 25 to 220 kg, and the height at the withers is 65 to 125 cm.

A characteristic distinguishing feature inherent in the genus of rams are the massively curved spirally horns with small transverse notches directed to the sides and sitting on a small elongated head. The horns of a ram can reach 180 cm, although there are species with small horns or without them at all. Quite high and strong legs are perfectly suited for walking both on flat fields and on mountain slopes. The tail of a ram has a length of 7 to 15 cm.

Due to the lateral position of the eyes with horizontal pupils, rams have the ability to see the surroundings behind them without turning their heads. Zoologists suggest that the eyes of a ram may perceive a color picture. This, along with a developed sense of smell and hearing, helps sheep find food or hide from the enemy.

The female ram is a sheep. Sex differences between males and females are manifested in body size (rams are almost 2 times larger than sheep) and horns (in males, horns are much better developed than in females). But the color of fur cover does not depend on sexual characteristics. For all individuals within the species, the color is almost identical. The color of a sheep and a sheep is brownish-brown, yellow-brown, gray-red, white, light gray, dark brown and even black. Almost all ram types have a belly and bottom legs of a light, almost white color. All members of the genus, except for domestic species, have a seasonal molt.

Left sheep, right sheep

The ram is an animal leading a herd life. Members of the herd communicate with each other by bleating or peculiar snorting. The ram's voice is bleating, different in pitch. Often, members of the herd are distinguished by their voices.

The average life of a sheep in natural conditions ranges from 7 to 12 years, although some individuals live to 15 years. In captivity sheep live 10-15 years, and with good care they can live to 20 years.

Types of sheep, names and photos.

There is no general classification accepted by all scientists. Some authors propose to divide species according to morphological criteria, for example, according to the shape of ram horns. Others prefer to isolate them based on the number of chromosomes and the structure of DNA. However, most researchers are inclined to believe that the whole genus of sheep can be divided into 7 species:

  • Sheep home (lat. Ovis aries)whose appearance depends on the breed. The length of adults varies from 0.6 to 1.1 m, their height at withers is about 1 meter, and the weight of a sheep (ram) can reach 45-100 kg (in females) and 70-160 kg (in males). The legs of the animal are well developed, of medium length, although there are breeds of sheep with very short legs (for example, Estonian white-headed). In addition to the characteristic spirally twisted horns in males, a distinctive feature of domestic sheep is the torsion of fur cover, which is absent in non-domesticated species. Most of the females of domestic sheep are komom (hornless). In the lower part of the muzzle of the sheep slightly pointed, and some breeds have a recognizable hook-nosed profile. Sheep wool can be white, beige, cream and black. Domestic sheep are common in many countries of the world. The most famous breed of domestic sheep:
    • Soviet merinogrown for wool and meat,
    • Karakul breedwhose wool is used for the manufacture of carpets, and the skin of lambs for getting astrakhan fur, which goes to sew the top fur clothing and winter hats.
    • Border leistergrown for wool and meat. A characteristic feature of this breed are long erect ears, resembling a hare.

  • Mouflon (Latin Ovis orientalis) - a species of wild sheep, from which the majority of domestic sheep originated. The most famous of its subspecies are:

European mouflon (lat. Ovis orientalis musimon) - wild sheep with a body length of up to 125 cm and weighing up to 50 kg. The color of the sheep of this species depends on the season. In the summer - red with a brown tinge, in winter - chestnut with a brown shimmer, and the color of the abdomen is white at any time of the year. The horns of the male ram are well developed, reaching a length of 0.65 m and having a triangular shape in the section. Female horns are practically absent. Wild European mouflon dwells on the high mountains of Corsica and Sardinia, as well as in southern Europe.

Asian mouflon (Armenian mouflon) (lat. Ovis orientalis gmelini) - wild sheep reaching 150 cm in length, height 92 cm at the withers and weighing up to 80 kg. Large triangular ram horns twisted in a spiral for one turn. Their girth at the base can exceed 25-29 cm. The horns of the females of the ram are much smaller in size, they are flatter and not twisted. The fur of an Asian ram has a reddish-brown or yellow-red shade. In winter, it acquires a dark brown color. A characteristic feature of this subspecies of the ram is a dark stripe running along the ridge and a black-and-brown mane with white guard hair. The wild Asian mouflon is distributed from the Caucasus and southern parts of Turkmenistan and Tajikistan to the Mediterranean Sea and northwestern part of India. It lives in countries such as Iran, India, Armenia, Azerbaijan.

Cypriot Mouflon (Latin Ovis orientalis ophion) - wild sheep, which was almost exterminated in the 20th century. In 1997, there were only 1,200 individuals. In 2016, this number has grown to 3000 individuals. This species of sheep lives in Cyprus.

  • Urial (lat. Ovis vignei) - wild sheep, whose size is about 1 meter in height with a body length of about 145 cm. The weight of a ram reaches 87 kg. The male ram has large curled horns up to 1 meter in length and with a diameter at the base up to 30.5 cm. The sheep's hair is brown, in winter with a darker tone. In general, the characteristic feature of the males of this species of rams is the black color of the chest and the front of the neck, but this depends on the subspecies (there are a total of 6 subspecies of urials). Urial is found in Central Asia - in the south-western part of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India.

  • Argali argali or mountain sheep (lat. Ovis ammon) - the largest wild sheep of this genus. There are several types of mountain sheep: Altai, Kazakhstan, Tibetan, Tien Shan, Pamiri, Gobi, Karatau, North China, Kyzylkum mountain sheep. The length of the body of adult males can reach 120-200 cm, height at withers is 90-120 cm, and weight is 65-180 kg. Both rams and sheep are owners of spiral-like massive horns, reaching a length of 190 cm (in males). Depending on the subspecies, the fur of a ram can vary from light sand to dark gray with a brown tint. The color of the belly and the lower part of the sides, along which the dark brown stripes pass, is much lighter. The neck of the male mountain sheep is decorated with a light fur ring, and the neck is decorated with long hair. Sheds argali 2 times a year. Wild mountain sheep lives in Central and Central Asia, as well as in southern Siberia. Wolves, lynxes, wolverines and snow leopards hunt mountain sheep. Arkhar is listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation.

  • Snow sheep (lat. Ovis nivicola) - a rather large wild animal with a short and thick neck. The length of adult males ranges from 1.4 to 1.88 m with a height at the withers of up to 1.1 m. The weight of the ram is 56-150 kg. The length of the female bighorn sheep is 1.26-1.79 m, height at withers is from 76 to 100 cm. Sheep weight is 33-68 kg. The horns of a bighorn sheep reach one meter in length and are strongly coiled into a ring. Typical for the kind of cross notches smoothed. The sickle horns of the females of the bighorn sheep are thinner and shorter. The dark brown color of the body is very different from the light belly and the inner parts of the hind legs. The snow ram lives in Eastern Siberia.

  • Bighorn or blunt ram (lat. Ovis canadensis) reaches a length of 110 cm and weighs 73-143 kg. Its height at the withers does not exceed 115 cm. The female of a heavy-haired ram weighs 53-91 kg. The bolls that inhabit the desert are smaller than their mountain counterparts. The weight of the ram of the desert desert is 58-86 kg in the male and 34-52 kg in the female. Large horns of males up to 110 cm long are curled into a gentle spiral. The head "decoration" in females has a half-crescent shape. The horns of a large ram weigh about 14 kilograms. The wool of a fat sheep is colored yellow-brown or brown-brown, even black. The color of the belly and the back of the thighs of the ram is lighter. It lives in the mountains of western North America from Canada to the California Peninsula.

  • Baran Dalla or thin-legged sheep (lat. Ovis dalli) - An animal of medium size with a body length of 160-180 cm. The weight of a ram reaches 140 kg. Long, thin, spiral curved horns of a ram grow to a length of 110 cm. The habitat of the Dallah ram stretches from southern Alaska to British Columbia. There are 2 subspecies of thin-skinned sheep:

Ovis dalli dalliA distinctive feature of this species is the snow-white color of the fur cover. Wild sheep with curled horns are common, mostly in Alaska, as well as in northwestern Columbia in the United States.

Ovis dalli stonei - gray ram with white spots at the tail. It lives in the northwestern United States.

Where do rams live in nature?

Wild sheep live only in the countries of the Northern Hemisphere and inhabit the foothill and mountainous regions of Greece and Turkey, North Africa and Spain, the Crimea and Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia and India. Some species of high-fat sheep live in deserts. Most of the Eurasian species can be found in the Caucasus, the Pamirs, Tien Shan and Altai. In addition, mountain sheep are widespread in Kamchatka, in Transbaikalia and Eastern Siberia, as well as in the mountains of Tibet and the Himalayas. In the North American continent, the natural range of the genus is tied to a narrow strip of the Pacific coast, stretching from Mexico to Alaska.

The habitat of domestic sheep is practically all continents, with the exception of Antarctica and tropical areas with high humidity. Today, sheep and sheep are raised in all countries of Europe and Asia, in North and South America, New Zealand and Australia.

Animals living in natural conditions are tied to a specific area and never leave it. During the year, wild sheep make seasonal migratory transitions, rising to the heights in the summer months and descending into the valleys during the winter cold. In the summer, a flock of sheep has an average of 30 heads, and with the onset of winter, some communities can reach about 1 thousand heads. Usually, a female ram with young stock is kept separate from scattered groups of males. The peculiarity of the communicative behavior of the herd is the constant control over the surrounding situation. The alarm signal received from any member of the flock of sheep is a guide to action for the entire community.

In domestic sheep, unlike wild relatives, herds are of mixed type, and herd instinct is very well developed, requiring the presence of at least one member of the herd. A sheep left alone in isolation is under severe stress.

What do sheep eat?

Feeding sheep directly depends on the habitat and time of year. They have the ability to easily adapt to environmental conditions and are completely unpretentious to food. In spring and summer, sheep eat bluegrass, desert sedge, goose onions, feather grass, timple, couch grass, legumes. In addition, various berries, foliage and green shoots of oak, hornbeam, maple, as well as other shrubs and trees are included in the ration of sheep. With the onset of cold weather, after the snow cover has fallen, the rams feed on wormwood, dry grains extracted from under the snow, almond and dog rose branches, mosses and lichens.

At home, the sheep are fed with hay, which is added 25% straw. As a concentrated additive in the diet of domestic sheep and sheep use oats or ground barley.

Breeding sheep.

The ram living in the natural environment becomes sexually mature at 2-3 years. The domestic sheep matures much earlier; to the first mating, female individuals are allowed at the age of one and a half.

Depending on the species, the mating season for sheep living in the southern regions begins at the end of July, and for inhabitants of cooler areas in October-November and may end in December. For the right to possession of a female several male rams usually claim. They arrange violent battles that can take a long time. After mating, the sheep leave the fertilized female and start searching for another female. On average, a sheep’s pregnancy lasts about 5 months.

A few days before the birth of the lambs, the female ram leaves the herd and retires to a secluded place, where calving takes place. A newborn baby sheep weighs from 3 to 5 kg. Usually born 1-2 lamb, but a more mature sheep can bring three.

The first few days the newborn lamb and mother are in the shelter. After the lambs get used to the mother, they return to the herd. A young sheep is fed with milk for up to 3-4 months, despite the fact that from the first month it can eat vegetable food. After only six months, the offspring becomes completely independent.

Breeding and maintenance of sheep at home.

Since ancient times, tamed sheep live next to humans. They are not aggressive, easily manageable, and keeping sheep at home does not present any particular difficulties. In areas with warm climates and mild winters, they can be grazed all year round and do not even require special facilities for shelter. They are quite simple canopy from the rain. In regions with harsh winter months, the construction of spacious sheep-dogs (rooms for keeping sheep) built of wood or brick is already required. Wooden floor, raised to 20-30 cm above the ground, sprinkled with straw or sawdust, replaced by their moisture and pollution. For females, rams and lambs are sure to arrange a special department, which can be heated during severe frosts.

In the summer months, domestic sheep feed on pastures. You can use the places where cows or horses grazed, because even after their walking the sheep will find something to profit from. In winter, the sheep are fed with hay and concentrated feed.

The benefits of domestic sheep.

The benefits of domestic sheep do not cause any doubt. Sheep wool, fabrics and carpets are made, sheepskin is used for sewing fur coats and sheepskin coats. We need sheep for meat and milk, from which they make cheese. Fat-tailed sheep breeds are bred specifically for fat. Some species of wild sheep are hunted. They kill mountain sheep for the sake of meat and horns, used for making jewelry or as a hunting trophy.

Breeding wild sheep.

Of all species of wild sheep, only mouflon and argali can be tamed and kept in the conditions of a zoo or a private farm. For their maintenance, it is necessary to organize special spacious pens with high, solid barriers and a small room with a feeding trough and a trough, in which animals can hide from heat or cold. The rest of the wild representatives of the genus of sheep very quickly die in captivity. To restore the species they create protected areas where hunting is prohibited.

Mountain sheep

Mountain sheep is the common name for several species of wild sheep, usually found in highlands. They belong to the group of the artiodactyl and the family of bovine animals.

Their distinctive feature is massive, spirally twisted horns, whose length can reach 190 cm. The average length of a ram, depending on the species, is 1.4–1.8 m, and its height is from 65 to 125 cm. Weigh different types from 25 up to 225 kg.

Due to the fact that their eyes are located on the sides, and the orientation of the pupils is horizontal, the sheep are able to see behind them without turning around. They also have a well-developed hearing and smell. Male and female individuals differ in size of the torso and horns. In females, some species of horns are completely absent.

Sheep feed mostly on grassy plants, but their diet includes berries and tree leaves. In winter, dry cereal crops and wormwood are extracted from under the snow drifts, as well as wild rose branches, moss and lichens are eaten.

Mountain sheep inhabit the territory of the Northern Hemisphere. They live in the mountains and foothills, and are also found in the deserts of Eurasia and North America. Typical habitats of mountain sheep are the Caucasus, Tibet, the Himalayas, the Pamirs, the Tien Shan.

Until now, scientists have not established the exact number of species of wild sheep. Consider the 5 most common.

Mouflon (European)

Mouflon - the only representative of wild sheep in Europe. It lives in open areas, mainly on gentle mountain slopes. His coat is smooth and short, slightly longer on the chest. The red-brown hair on the back, becomes chestnut by winter, white on the chest.

The length of the body of the male, together with the tail (about 10 cm), reaches 1.25 m, the height at the withers is 70 cm. The horns of the male are about 65 cm long, well developed, and have a triangular cross section. Horns are extremely rare in females. The weight of a ram is 40–50 kg. The size of the females is smaller than the males, they have a lighter coat color.

Mouflon, like all sheep, is a gregarious animal. Sometimes they gather in large herds of up to 100 individuals. На протяжении года самки и самцы живут отдельно, объединяясь лишь зимой, в период спаривания.

В брачный период (поздняя осень) самцы устраивают между собой поединки. Длительность жизни составляет от 12 до 17 лет.

Архар (степной муфлон)

Архары были повсеместно распространены на Тянь-Шане и Южном Алтае. However, in recent years, their numbers have declined markedly due to human activity, in Altai they have completely disappeared.

Argali live in the highlands and lead a sedentary lifestyle. If for a long time in one place you can find food and no one is disturbed by rams, they do not wander.

In males, the horns are powerful, spirally twisted. The horns of the females are thin and much shorter, almost not curved. The color of the body, as a rule, is brownish-brown on the sides and on the back, and the belly and neck are snow-white.

Snowy (Great Wall, Chubuk)

The body of the bighorn sheep is small but muscular, with a small head, on which are located unique horns in appearance. They are characteristic both for males, there and for females, in length can reach 110 cm.

The bighorn sheep is also called the "bison" or "chubuk". The legs are rather short and powerful. The body is covered with thick short hair, which protects them from frost. The color of animals is predominantly brown-brown, white spots are found on the body, mainly on the head.

The length of the torso of males ranges from 1.40 to 1.88 m, height at withers is 76-112 cm. They weigh from 56 to 150 kg. Females are smaller in size, the length of their bodies is 126–179 cm, height - 76–100 cm. Body weight - from 33 to 68 kg. They live in small herds in several individuals, in the fall they get together in bigger groups, but not exceeding 30 heads.

Dalla (tonkorogiy)

Dallah is found in North America (in the western part of Canada and in the mountainous regions of Alaska). This species is distinguished by snow-white hair, sometimes individuals with black tails and grayish spots on the back and sides are caught. Adults have a body length of 1.3–1.8 m.

Males weigh from 70 to 110 kg, females - up to 50 kg. Males have spiral horns that spin more and more with age. The horns of the females are much smaller and thinner. They live an average of 12 years.

Dalla rams are very social, not hostile to neighboring groups. Males and females live in separate herds and unite during the rut.

Among males there is a strict hierarchy, which is determined by the size of the horns. Males arrange competitions among themselves, but thanks to a strong skull, injuries are quite rare.

Urial (Turkmen Mountain)

This is one of the smallest species of wild sheep, they are common in Central Asia. Its weight does not exceed 80 kg, and the height at the withers is up to 75 cm. Their coat color is brown, slightly brightens in summer.

On the rump there is a white spot, and in males the hair in the neck and chest is black. The horns of males are massive, in length they can reach 1 meter, with a convex outer surface and fine transverse wrinkles.

They live on the slopes of mountains and plateaus where open pastures are present, without gorges and cliffs. Like other species, females and males of urials live in separate herds and unite for the mating season. Pregnancy lasts for half a year, as a result one lamb is born. Turkmen mountain sheep live for about 12 years.

Life cycle features

Sheep reach sexual maturity in 2–3 years. Males and females of all species live in separate herds and create mixed groups only for the mating period, which begins with the arrival of cold weather.

Such groups disintegrate by spring. Males arrange battles for the right to own a female. The pregnancy of the female lasts from 5 to 6 months. Before giving birth, she retires from the herd in a secluded place. Usually one or two lambs are born, their weight is from three to five kg. Under natural conditions, sheep live no longer than 15 years.

Features and habitat of mountain sheep

Mountain sheep are a group of artiodactyls - members of the family of bovids, which are akin to, according to some characteristics, similar to each other, domestic sheep, musk ox and mountain goats.

It is possible to distinguish from the last mountain sheep mainly by imposing horns, having a rounded shape in cross-section, as well as by more massive, dense build, short limbs and the absence of a beard.

Wild mountain sheep, in comparison with domestic sheep, is more slender, and its horns are higher. Blue and maned rams are similar to these animals, being an intermediate form between ordinary rams and mountain goats.

Mountain sheep are characterized by medium and large size. And basically their largest species, which scientists number about seven, are systematized and differ among themselves.

The smallest representative of this group is mouflon. These animals have a height of about 75 cm, reaching a weight of from 25 to 46 kg. The leader among the species is argali - the largest representative of this group. Such inhabitants of mountains sometimes weigh up to 100, males up to 220 kg, reaching a height of more than a meter.

As you can see on photo of a mountain sheep, unconditional pride and decoration of such animals are their horns, twisted in an original way into a spiral, transversely striated and directed in different directions.

The owner of the largest and heaviest (weighing up to 35 kg) horns is Altai mountain sheepit is the largest representative of such animals (in the middle specimens have a mass of about 180 kg).

However, this is a very rare species, the population of which is, according to estimates, only about 700 individuals. In view of this state of affairs, in Russia these mountain dwellers are listed in the Red Book.

Coloring of animals, as a rule, is patronizing, these are greyish-red or brown shades, but part of the legs, back area and belly, in most cases, are painted white.

However, exceptions are enough. For example, thin-legged sheep differ monochromatic light gray or white colors, and the maned look is distinguished by yellowish-red shades.

Mountain sheep successfully settle in almost all the mountainous areas of the Northern Hemisphere, are particularly widely represented in Asia, but are found in numerous mountains in Europe, as well as in North Africa and America, preferring to inhabit fairly low altitudes, unlike mountain goats. One of the species of these animals: thick-legged sheep, is also found in deserts located at the foot of the mountains.

The nature and lifestyle of the mountain sheep

Wild sheep usually do not leave the inhabited places, but depending on the time of the year they make small seasonal movements, in summer they rise higher to the tops of steep mountains and fall into herds of several dozen heads.

In winter, they descend to the foot of the mountains, forming large clusters of up to 1000 heads. Individuals of the male sex and females with their offspring usually keep apart and form isolated herds. It often happens that large, strong, confident males are kept alone.

When communicating, these animals do not show aggression towards each other. In order to warn the congeners about the danger, the quick-witted and cautious mountain sheep are able to give audible signals. The bleating of animals according to their tonality is crude and low.

When confronted with the enemy, these mountain creatures are able to display a practical mind, find a way out of the situation and escape from danger in time. On sheer surfaces, they move poorly, but are able to perfectly jump from cliff to cliff. Mountain sheep able to take a height exceeding its height, and in length they jump 3-5 meters.

Predatory birds such as golden eagles and eagles, as well as large animals such as pumas, snow leopards and wolves, and in certain parts of the world coyotes, cheetahs, and leopards can pose a threat to these mountain animals.

Mountain sheep is not so easy to win, so many predators try to just knock animals down, forcing them to fall into the abyss, and then they catch up with the wounded or dead and eat.

Since immemorial times, the danger to mountain sheep is also represented by a man who leads actinia to animals for the extraction of fat and meat, making magnificent trophies and souvenirs from their beautiful horns and heads.

As a result of such actions, as well as the taming of certain types of sheep and the spread of cattle breeding, the population of mountain sheep often suffered significant damage.

The population of mountain sheep and human civilization have come together from time immemorial. These animals, distributed throughout the world, often became heroes of ancient cults.

And ram horns among the peoples of Asia were considered a magical artifact. Domesticated animals are perfectly acclimatized and breed without problems, and also interbreed with sheep, as a result of which hybrids appear.

Wild sheep are herbivorous, which is why they use various, mainly herbal, vegetation of the mountainous area in which they exist, but animals prefer cereals to all other types of food.

However, they are very unpretentious, so they can be content with coarse types of food. Mountain sheep with pleasure are able to eat the branches of trees, for example, oak or maple, as well as a wide variety of shrubs. Finding deposits of solonets, they eagerly lick salt from them, satisfying the body's need for minerals.

These animals also need abundant sources of clean water, but the sheep living in the desert terrain often have an acute shortage of such needs. For winter, the animal organism is prepared in advance, accumulating fat reserves.

Reproduction and longevity

The male of the mountain ram is easily distinguished in appearance from the female. The size of the body, they are larger in one and a half, sometimes twice. Moreover, the horns of females are usually slightly bent and shorter in size. Their length is not more than 35 cm, while males mountain sheep, horns may have meter values.

In the photo are young mountain sheep

The mating season in animals begins in late autumn, usually in November. For this time, ritual fights of males competing for females are characteristic. In this case, two opposing individuals, standing against each other, scatter and collide with their foreheads.

Their powerful frontal bones are quite capable of withstanding the power of such a huge blow. While caring for their chosen ones, the sheep excite their feelings, sticking their tongues out and making peculiar movements with them.

After mating, individuals of the female bear their cubs, which, as a rule, are one or two, on average, about 160 days. Lambs are usually born in the spring, and at the time of delivery, mothers leave their herds, returning only after a week with cubs.

After the end of the period of dairy nutrition, by the fall, young lambs are already able to independently satisfy their needs for food and clean water.

Lambs are active and mobile, they jump and play very well, but are vulnerable and need constant attention and protection. The lifespan of mountain sheep depends on the type of animals and the conditions in which they exist, averaging around 10-12 years.

Altai sheep: description

Historically, the Altai mountain sheep has many names. It is called the Altai sheep, and argali, and the Altai argali. Among all the names of this solid animal there is even a "Tien Shan ram".

As already mentioned, the Altai ram is the largest ram. Growth in an adult individual can reach 125 centimeters, and the length of two meters. These are strong herbivores with corresponding horns. They are hollow at the Altai ram, very wide and wrapped in such a way that the edges protrude forward. The main part of the horn is a horn loop, facing the back of the animal.

Horns play a big role in the role of a ram. With them, the animal is not only protected from natural enemies, but also participates in widespread battles during the breeding season.

Like all members of the ram family, the Altai mountain ram is a herbivore. The basis of its diet is a variety of cereals, sedge, buckwheat and other herbs. In the winter, in the absence of adequate forage, animals carry out migrations. In particular, they descend from the mountains and graze on the plains. To search for a suitable pasture, the Altai mountain sheep can travel up to 50 kilometers.


Today there are only three points on the globe where you can see the Altai mountain goat:

  • In the area of ​​Chulshman.
  • In the area of ​​the mountain range Saylugem,
  • In the area between Mongolia and China.

It goes without saying that the places where the sheep live are carefully guarded and are a protected area.

Mountain goats are a favorite spot. At the same time, they do not need abundant vegetation - small shrubs from the round-leaved subspecies will be quite enough for them.

In the hot season, mountain sheep can eat two or three times, but as far as a watering place is concerned, the opposite is true - they replenish the water reserves in their bodies every three days.

Number of

At the beginning of the 20th century, the number of Altai mountain sheep reached 600 individuals. Somewhat later, their numbers declined sharply - to 245. Through protective measures and the resettlement of adult individuals to protected areas, the number was slightly increased - to 320 individuals, including both young and already adult members of this breed.

They tried to breed the breed in artificial conditions - in zoos of Germany and America, but, unfortunately, the attempts were not crowned with success. In most cases, the animals died within a few weeks. The only survivor was a mountain sheep, who was bred at the Biological Institute of Russia - he lived for six years. It is obvious that it is necessary to keep this breed only in natural conditions for them or, at least, in the most similar ones.

The Novosibirsk Zoo is engaged in saving the species, as well as serious attempts to increase the population. This institution is the only one in the world where Altai mountain sheep can be seen by anyone. Another interesting fact is that the sheep contained here safely give birth to offspring.

Researchers at the zoo has made a plan for growing and releasing young lambs. As part of this activity, in September 2018, four males were released into their natural habitat, which were separately raised in a special aviary. The event was successful, and the animals went into the forest. According to the calculations of specialists, they should meet and become part of a large herd of wild sheep in the region of release.

Description of the mountain sheep

The length of an adult mountain sheep is from 120 to 200 cm, height at withers is 90-120 cm, weight is from 65 to 180 kg. Different subspecies vary in size and color. So, the largest representative is Pamir argali. The color of animals varies from light sand to dark grayish-brown. The lower body is always lighter. On the sides are strips of brown color, separating the top of the body from the bottom. The muzzle and shroud are bright. The male of the mountain sheep is distinguished by the presence of a characteristic ring of light wool in the neck and elongated hair on the nape. Shedding occurs several times a year, winter wool is longer and lighter than summer. Limbs tall and slender.

Both males and females of the mountain sheep have long horns. In males, their sizes are more impressive, from 180 to 190 cm, they are twisted with spirals, with tips turned out and up.

Nutrition Features of the Mountain Sheep

The wild mountain sheep is a herbivore, the basis of the diet of which is a variety of grassy vegetation. Argali is especially prone to cereal crops. All subspecies in the diet as a whole are unpretentious, they can eat sedge and hodgepodge.

An animal can do without drinking water for quite a long time and be content with moisture that comes from plants. If necessary, can also drink salt water.

Mountain sheep spread

Mountain sheep are common in the foothills and mountains of Central and Central Asia, where they rise to altitudes from 1000 to 6000 meters above sea level. Occur in the Himalayas, the Pamirs and Tibet, the Altai and Mongolia. Previously, the area was wider and included the west and east of Siberia, as well as the south-west of Yakutia.

Specific habitats differ for different subspecies:

  • subspecies Ovis amon amon lives in Gobi and Mongolian Altai, in the east of Kazakhstan, southeast of Altai, southwest of Tuva and Mongolia,
  • subspecies of Ovis ammon сallium is common in Kazakhstan and Altai,
  • subspecies Ovis ammon hodgsónii - a resident of Tibet, the Himalayas, Nepal, India,
  • subspecies Ovis amon karelini is observed on the territory of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and China,
  • subspecies Ovis amonn rolii inhabits Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Afghanistan,
  • subspecies Ovis ammon jubata lives in Tibet,
  • subspecies Ovis ammon sevеrtzоvi found in western Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Mountain sheep prefer open spaces, steppe mountain slopes and piedmont rocky areas, grassy alpine meadows overgrown with leafy shrubs. A distinctive feature of all subspecies is the seasonal vertical migration. In the summer, mountain sheep go to the alpine belt, rich in grassy vegetation, and in winter they go down to snow-covered pastures.

Common subspecies of the mountain sheep

The mountain sheep species includes the following subspecies, which are distinguished by their habitats and sizes:

  • Anatolian mouflon (Ovis amon anatolisa),

  • Bukhara mountain ram (Ovis ammon bosharensis),

  • Kazakhstani argali (Ovis аmon сine),

  • Gansu Argali (Ovis amon dalaimatae)
  • Tibetan mountain ram (Оvis аmon hoggsоnii),

  • North China mountain sheep (Ovis amon jubata)
  • Tien Shan mountain sheep (Ovis amon kаrelini),

  • Argali Kozlova (Ovis ammon kozlóvi),

  • каратауский горный баран (Оvis аmmоn nigrimоntаnа),
  • кипрский горный баран (Оvis аmmоn орhiоn),

  • горный баран Марко Поло (Оvis аmmоn роlii),

  • кызылкумский горный баран (Оvis аmmоn sеvеrtzоvi),

  • урмийские муфлоны (Оvis аmmоn urmiаnа).

Поведение горного барана

Горные бараны ведут преимущественно оседлый образ жизни. Зимой и летом они совершают вертикальные миграции. In the summer, animals form small groups, up to thirty individuals, and in winter these groups unite and include up to a couple of hundred heads.

A herd of mountain sheep is either females with young or bachelor groups. Mature males often graze separately from all. Inside the herd, rams are always tolerant and friendly, although they don’t rush to help each other, but if one ram issues an alarm signal, then the whole group is mobilized. The danger signal in adults is snorting, in young - bleating.

Wild mountain sheep - an animal extremely cautious and intelligent, able to constantly monitor the environment. In case of danger, immediately takes refuge in directions that are difficult for the predators. By the ability to climb rocks a mountain sheep is comparable to a mountain goat. The average height of the jump - up to 2 meters, length - about 5 meters.

Mountain sheep are most active in the morning, in the afternoon they rest and graze in the morning and evening.

The average lifespan of this species is 10-12 years.

Breeding mountain sheep

Before the breeding season begins, the mountain sheep create groups of up to 15 individuals. Females become sexually mature at the age of 2 years, as well as males, but the latter enter into mating games even after 2-3 years at the age of 5 years. Prior to that, they are driven away from females by large older relatives.

Terms of the mating season vary depending on the habitat of the subspecies. At this time, adult rams create for themselves “harems”, which include 8-25 females. Young males gather in bachelor groups.

Males during this period are always highly excited, actively pursuing sexually mature females, and less cautious than usual than predators and hunters use. Fights also take place between the males, during which the animals start to beat with their foreheads and horns. The loud sounds that occur in this way can even be heard in the mountains at great distances. After the rut, the males leave the females and go to the mountains.

Pregnancy lasts 5-6 months, after which spring lambs are born. Childbirth usually occurs in remote rocky places or dense shrub areas where females move away from their herd. In a litter, usually 1-2 cubs, triplets are rare. The average weight of a newborn is 3.5-4.5 kg. In the first days of life, babies are very weak and completely helpless. They hide and hide between large stones or in the bushes. After a few days, their activity increases, and they can follow their mother. Females with calves re-form groups, which later joined last year's young. For about six months, milk feeding of lambs continues. They begin to consume green fodder at the age of several weeks, and in the fall they switch to independent feeding.

Growth in mountain sheep occurs slowly and for a long time, which is especially noticeable in males, which gradually grow almost their entire lives.

Natural enemies of the mountain sheep

The main natural enemies of the mountain sheep are wolves. These predators cause large populations of artiodactyls, due to the fact that mountain sheep keep on flat and open, well-viewed areas.

In addition, the number of argali and such natural enemies as snow leopards, leopards, coyotes, cheetahs, eagles and golden eagles have a negative effect. Also people hunt for these animals. Extraction of this species is associated with the production of meat, skins and costly horns.

Interesting facts about the mountain sheep

  • Mountain sheep are the largest representatives of wild sheep. The Latin specific name “amon” goes back to the name of God Amon. According to myths, because of the strong fear of Typhon, the celestials turned into various animals, and Amon turned into a ram. According to the ancient tradition, this god was even portrayed as a man with large and curled ram horns.
  • It was because of the horns that mountain sheep hunted people from ancient times. Previously, in Chinese traditional medicine of them were preparing various potions. Now the price of the horns of this species reaches tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Mountain sheep from pastures often crowds out livestock, after which the fields are completely unsuitable for feeding these wild animals. The size of the population is adversely affected by climate change, very severe and snowy winters. But in general, the state of the number of animals is difficult to track because of their mountain lifestyle.
  • Mountain sheep are listed in the Red Book of Russia, hunting is prohibited. It is very easy to tame these animals, they are kept in captivity in spacious pens with high and strong fences, and in rooms with drinking bowls and feeders. To restore the number of species of endangered animals are placed in zoos and reserves.

Subspecies of mountain sheep

The species of argali or mountain sheep includes several well-studied subspecies that differ in their external characteristics:

  • Altai sheep or Ovis ammon amon,
  • Anatolian mouflon or Ovis ammon anatolisa,
  • Bukhara ram or Ovis ammon Boshаrensis,
  • Kazakhstani argali or Ovis аmonоonium,
  • Gansu Argali or Ovis ammon dalaimatae,
  • Tibetan mountain sheep or Ovis аmon hoggsоnii,
  • North China mountain sheep or Ovis ammon jubata,
  • Tien Shan mountain sheep or Ovis ammon kаrelini,
  • Argali Kozlova or Ovis ammon kozlóvi,
  • Karatau mountain sheep or Ovis ammon nigrimone,
  • Cypriot ram or Ovis amon orión,
  • ram mountain Marco Polo or Ovis ammoni rolii,
  • Kyzylkum ram mountain or Ovis аmmon sevеrtzоvi,
  • Ummian mouflon or Ovis ammon urmana.

Of particular interest is the subspecies of argali - Altai or Tien Shan mountain sheep. This artiodactyl mammal belonging to the family of horned rams, has the most powerful and very heavy horns. The average weight, which the horns of an adult male have, often reaches 33-35 kg. The height of a mature male at the withers can vary between 70-125 cm, with a body length of up to two meters and a mass within 70-180 kg.

The length of the tail is 13-14 cm. For all representatives of the subspecies of O. amon amon, the presence of a rather squat body, thin, but very strong limbs is characteristic. The end of the animal face has a lighter coloring than its head and back. The population of the Altai mountain sheep can be represented by two main groups: females with young individuals and mature males.

No less interesting are the mountain Kyzylkum ram or argali Severtsov. This endemic territory of Kazakhstan is currently under threat of extinction, and the number of this subspecies does not exceed one hundred individuals. Ovis amon sevеrtzоvi is listed in the Red Book operating in the territory of Kazakhstan.

Appearance of argali

The body length of an adult argali is 120-200 cm, with a height at the withers of 90-120 cm and weight in the range of 65-180 kg. Depending on the subspecies, they vary not only in size, but also in body color, but today the largest is Pamir argali, or Marco Polo mountain ram, which got its name in honor of the famous traveler, who gave the first description of this mammal.

Males and females of this subspecies are characterized by very long horns. The male of the mountain sheep has larger, impressive in size horns, whose weight is often almost 13% of the total body weight of the animal. Horns, up to 180-190 cm long, spiralingly twisted, with the endings turned outwards and upwards.

It is interesting! For many years, the horns of the mountain sheep are very popular with hunters, so their cost is often several thousand dollars.

Body dyeing of a horned hoofed mammal can vary greatly, which is due to the characteristics of the subspecies. Most often the color is represented by a very wide range from light sand shades to dark grayish-brown color.

For the lower body is characterized by a lighter color. On the sides of the body of the mountain ram there are dark brownish stripes, which very clearly visually separate the darker upper part of the body from the light lower part. The area of ​​the muzzle and hillock always have a color in bright colors.

A distinctive feature of the color of the male mountain sheep is the presence of a very characteristic ring, represented by light wool and located around the animal's neck, as well as the presence of elongated hair in the area of ​​the neck. Such a high-grade artiodactic mammal sheds a couple of times a year, and the winter fur has a lighter coloring and a maximum length compared to the summer cover. The legs of the mountain sheep are rather tall and very slender, which, along with the spiral horns, is the main species difference from the mountain goat (Sara).

Important! When there is a danger of life, the adult animal starts to sniff very actively and loudly enough, and the young individuals bleat like lambs of the domestic sheep.

Lifestyle and behavior

Mountain sheep belong to the category of animals that are characterized by a sedentary lifestyle. In the winter and summer periods, the so-called vertical migrations are performed by bovidy artiodactyls. With the onset of summer, argali mountain sheep join together in relatively small herds, consisting of a maximum of thirty heads, and in winter, such a herd becomes much larger and is capable of including several hundreds of uneven-aged animals.

The group of mountain sheep can be represented by the union of females and young animals, as well as individual bachelor groups. Large adult males are able to graze separately from the entire herd. As practice shows perennial observations, united in one herd of sheep behave quite tolerant and quite friendly to each other.

It should be noted that adult sheep usually do not provide assistance to their relatives, however, the behavioral characteristics of each member entering the herd are closely monitored, and if there is an alarm signal issued by one ram, the whole herd takes a wait-and-see position.

Wild mountain sheep are characterized as very cautious and smart enough mammals, capable of keeping track of the whole situation around them almost constantly. When the very first signs of danger appear, the argali retreat in the direction that will be the least available for pursuit by enemies. In climbing abilities, a mountain sheep is very slightly inferior to a mountain goat.

Such an artiodactyl is not able to move on surfaces of a sheer type, and is also able to jump less actively and easily over rocky areas. However, the average height of the jump reaches a couple of meters, and the length can be about five meters. The maximum activity of the bovine mountain sheep is observed with the onset of early morning, and at noon the animals are mass sent to rest, where the gum is chewed on while lying down. Argali prefer to graze in the cool morning and evening hours.

How many years lives argali

The average life span of a mountain sheep or argali can vary greatly depending on many external factors, including the area of ​​distribution. But, as a rule, in natural, natural conditions, an artiodactyl poloroye mammal can live no more than ten or twelve years.

Habitat and habitat

Mountain argali live, as a rule, in the foothills and mountainous areas in Central and Central Asia, rising to an altitude of 1.3-6.1 thousand meters above sea level. A highland mammal inhabits the Himalayas, the Pamirs and Tibet, as well as Altai and Mongolia. Relatively recently, the range of such artiodons was much wider, and mountain argali were massively found in the southern part of Western and Eastern Siberia, as well as in the south-western part of Yakutia.

Currently, the habitat of argali largely depends on the characteristics of the subspecies:

  • subspecies Ovis amon ammon is found in the mountain systems of the Gobi and Mongolian Altai, as well as on certain ridges and massifs in the territory of Eastern Kazakhstan, South-Eastern Altai, South-Western Tuva and Mongolia,
  • subspecies Ovis amon сollium is found in the Kazakh Highlands, in the northern Balkhash, Kalbinsky Altai, Tarbagatai, Monrak and Saur,
  • subspecies Ovis ammon hodgsonii found in the Tibetan Highlands and the Himalayas, including Nepal and India
  • subspecies of Ovis ammon karelini is found in Kazakhstan, as well as in Kyrgyzstan and China,
  • subspecies Ovis amonn rolii inhabits the territory of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, China and Afghanistan,
  • subspecies Ovis ammon jubata inhabits the vast Tibetan Highlands,
  • subspecies Ovis ammon supervizovi inhabits the western part of the mountain ranges in Kazakhstan, as well as some areas in Uzbekistan.

Mountain sheep prefer fairly open spaces that allow them to wander along the steppe mountain slopes and piedmont rocky areas, as well as grassy alpine meadows, well overgrown with leafy shrubs. The artiodactyarid highland mammal is often found in rocky ravines and valleys with rocky uplands.. Argali try to avoid places that are characterized by dense thickets of woody vegetation. A distinctive feature of all subspecies is seasonal vertical migration.

It is interesting! In summer, argali go up to areas of the Alpine belt, rich in grassy fresh vegetation, and in winter, on the contrary, animals descend on the territory of little snow pastures.

Diet, what argali eats

Wild mountain sheep, argali, belong to the category of herbivorous animals, which is why the basic ration for artiodactyls is represented by the diverse, grassy vegetation that is characteristic of the area and area in which the subspecies exists. According to numerous scientific observations, any other types of plant food, billed argali prefer cereal crops.

It is interesting! All subspecies are unpretentious, therefore, in addition to cereals, they with great pleasure and in large quantities eat sedge and hodgepodge.

The artiodactyl mammal is not afraid of bad weather and precipitation at all, therefore it actively eats lush vegetation even in time of fairly heavy rains. The presence of water for a mountain sheep is not a daily necessity in life, therefore such an animal can calmly not drink for a long time. If necessary, argali can drink even salt water.

Reproduction and offspring

Shortly before mating, mountain sheep are combined into small herds, consisting of a maximum of fifteen heads. Sexual maturity in female argali begins in the second year of life, but the ability to reproduce animals is acquired only at the age of two years. The male of the mountain sheep becomes sexually mature by two years, but the animal takes an active part in reproduction much later, approximately from five years.

Until this age, young males are constantly driven away from females by the most adult and large brethren. The timing of the active rut is not the same in different parts of the range of the mountain sheep. For example, in individuals living on the territory of Kyrgyzstan, the rut season is usually observed in November or December. A characteristic feature of adult male rams is the ability to create for themselves the so-called "harems", consisting of eight or more females. The maximum number of females per one adult male of the mountain sheep is about twenty-five individuals.

Together with females, several immature animals can be included in such a herd. Sexually mature, but still not strong enough, young males of such bovidy hoarse-nosed ones, not admitted to females by the strongest and most advanced rivals, during the rut period are most often combined into separate small groups that roam near the created “harems”.

During the mating season, males of the argali are characterized by strong excitement and are very actively chasing sexually mature females, as a result of which they become less cautious. It was during such a period, that hunters and predators could get no closer to the artiodactyls by a dangerous distance. Numerous tournament fights take place between adults and males ready for mating in the rut season, at which the animals disperse and come together again, hitting their heads and horns with incredible force during run-off.

It is interesting! The loud sounds accompanying such strikes can be heard in the mountains even at a distance of several kilometers. After the rut season is over, the argali males are again separated from all the females and, joining together in small groups, go up into the mountains.

The duration of gestation of the female argali is approximately five or six months, after which, with the onset of spring heat, lambs appear. Before the onset of lambing, females of mountain sheep move away from the main herd and look for the most deaf stony or dense shrub areas for lambing. As a result of lambing, as a rule, one or two lambs are born, but there are also known cases of the appearance of triplets.

The average weight of newborn lambs directly depends on their number, but, more often, does not exceed 3.5-4.5 kg. Признаки полового диморфизма, в плане веса, при рождении бывают выражены очень слабо. Новорожденные самки могут быть незначительно меньше самцов. В самые первые дни жизни новорожденные ягнята бывают достаточно слабыми и абсолютно беспомощными. Они затаиваются между крупных камней или в кустарнике. Примерно на третий или четвертый день ягнята становятся более активными и следуют за своей матерью.

If in the first days, all the surrounding females of the mountain sheep prefer to stay alone, then after a couple of weeks, after the offspring have gotten a little stronger, they begin to ferment and even unite in small groups. Last year's youngsters subsequently also join such small herds of females. Mother's milk is used as the main feed by lambs of mountain sheep until about mid-autumn. This useful and highly nourishing product in its chemical composition and taste characteristics has no significant differences from the milk of domestic sheep.

Green fodder begins to be consumed sparingly by lambs a few weeks after birth, and with the onset of the autumn period, much of the young feed on their own. The females, as they grow and develop, noticeably lag behind the males in size.

It is interesting! Mountain argali grow rather slowly and for a long time, and the slow growth is especially noticeable in males, which can gradually increase in size practically throughout their life.

Population status and species protection

Local hunters massively shoot mountain sheep for their horns, which are widely used by Chinese traditional medicine healers to prepare various potions. Almost all of the subspecies of this hoofed mammal animal lives in fairly inaccessible areas, so it is impossible to precisely control their numbers.

Argali are often supplanted from livestock pastures, after which the fields become completely unsuitable for feeding mountain sheep.. Climate change, too severe or very snowy winters, also have a very negative effect on the downsizing.

Argali or mountain sheep argali is listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation, and this makes it possible to bring to justice those who lead the illegal hunt for an endangered one. As practice shows, argali may well be tamed, and for a comfortable keeping in captivity such a bovine mountain sheep is enough to allocate a spacious pen with a high and strong fence, as well as a room with drinkers and feeders. To restore the number of the species, endangered animals are also placed in special conservation areas and are kept in zoos.