Barbary Sheep

Barbary Sheep, an African highlander


Barbary Sheep

Presence, a stately bearing, both male and female have, as both are crowned with a massive pair of horns finely corrugated and curved growing towards the back. In females, however, they are slightly smaller than in males. Both genders also display long rows of hairs on their throat, which, in males, also cover the front legs, hence the name of Barbary Sheep. Their colour ranges from reddish to sandy brown on the back, lighter on the rest of the body.

This ungulate has “Alpine” legs and trudges with elegance and ease in steep areas. Its talent does not await the number of years since the ability to overcome obstacles shows in the barely born. While it confines itself mostly to mountains and semi-deserts, it may also occupy open forests. Alone or in small groups, it can reach heights over 4,000 metres, as long as these remain free of snow.


Photo : Alfonsopazphoto (Wikimedia Commons)

Most often, parturition takes place between September and November, but it can still occur between March and May, as females reaching sexual maturity after 18 months may exceptionally have two litters a year.

Especially active at dawn and dusk, it seeks shade from a rock during the hottest hours or, with any luck, that from a tree. The desert, as for many other Saharan species, is an ongoing challenge: a non-specialized vegetarian by necessity, it finds in some plants the water needed, which allows it to move away from water points for several days. In those places, it is most likely to be the victim of a scarce predator, cheetah or caracal.


Hoggar (Algeria).
Photo : Bertrand Devouard (Wikicommons).

The populations of this species seems to amount to less than 10,000 individuals, mainly confined to some steep regions of the Saharan Atlas, the Ahaggar and Tassili n’Ajjer mountains (in the Algerian Sahara), as well as Tripolitania and Fezzan (in Libya), plus a few scattered populations in Chad, Sudan and Niger.

Populations have declined with the arrival of gun. Over the past few years, projects to protect the species have however emerged: national parks or game reserves. Yet poaching and competition from domestic animal herds still require serious control.

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Poaching in Libya

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Poaching in Libya

Should Man retain his finger on his gun’s trigger and this sheep will be able to redeploy its populations. It has already proven so where it was introduced: in Spain, the Canary Islands and the southern USA.

Author (copyright) : Chantal Dengis

English translation : Anne Lindsey (Loon Traduction)

Thanks : Amina Fellous Ir for his comments and informations.

References :

– Cassinello, J., Cuzin, F., Jdeidi, T., Masseti, M., Nader, I. & de Smet, K. 2008. Ammotragus lervia. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. .
– Cuzin, F. 2003. Les grands mammifères du Maroc méridional (Haut Atlas, Anti Atlas et Sahara) : distribution, écologie et conservation. Thèse Doctorat. EPHE. Montpellier. 350p.
– De Smet, K. 2012. La répartition des grands mammifères dans le désert algérien est très mal connue ! Nature Vivante, 10 : 2-9.
– Le Berre, M. et al. 1990. Faune du Sahara. 2, Mammifères. Lechevalier Ed. 360 p. ISBN 2-7205-0531-5.


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