||The Mammals of Texas -
Artiodactyla : Family Bovidae :
Ammotragus lervia (Pallas)
Description. A relatively large sheep
with horns curving outward, backward, and then inward and
marked with strong transverse wrinkles; horns of females
similar but somewhat smaller; tail relatively long,
reaching nearly to hocks and with long hairs on terminal
half; a conspicuous growth of long hair on throat, chest,
and upperparts of front legs; no beard as is found in
goats; upperparts and outer surface of legs uniform
rufous or grayish brown; blackish mid-dorsal line from
head to middle of back; flanks, inner surface of legs and
belly whitish, but the chest colored like the sides;
horns yellowish brown, darkening with age, set close
together (nearly touching at the bases), and attaining a
length of 50-80 cm. External measurements of a moderately
large adult male: total length, 1,650 mm; tail, 141 mm;
hind foot (tip of hoof to hock), 363 mm; ear, 116 mm;
height at shoulder, 950 mm. Weight of males up to 145 kg;
females to 65 kg. Dental formula: I 0/3, C 0/0, Pm 3/3, M
3/3 X 2 = 30.
Distribution in Texas. Native to
the dry mountainous areas of northern Africa; introduced
into the Palo Duro Canyon area of Texas in 1957-58, where
it has become firmly established. Also present in the
Edwards Plateau, Trans-Pecos, South Texas, Rolling
Plains, and Post Oak Savannah regions as a result of
Habits. This sheep, also called
the aoudad, is adapted to a dry, rough, barren, and
waterless habitat much as is the native bighorn
sheep of our southwestern deserts. Consequently, it is
quite likely that these two could not survive together in
the same area because of competition between them.
These sheep live in small groups
comprised of old and young animals of both sexes. They
are expert climbers and can ascend and descend slopes so
precipitous that man can negotiate them only with great
difficulty. Consequently, they are difficult to hunt.
Their food consists of a wide variety
of vegetation including grasses, forbs, and shrubs.
Apparently, they are capable of producing metabolic water
and can survive for long periods without access to fresh
water. However, when water is available they utilize it
for both drinking and bathing.
In studies conducted in New Mexico,
Herman Ogren found that 79 species of plants were
included in the diet of these sheep; of these, 13 were
grasses, 20 were shrubs and the remainder forbs. Mountain
mahogany (Cercocarpus breviflorus) was the most
sought-for single plant. On a yearlong basis this species
comprised nearly 22% of the items found in rumens of the
sheep. Ogren found some seasonal variation in the diet.
In winter, grasses comprised 86% of the rumen contents;
browse, 11%; forbs, 3%. In spring, summer, and fall the
browse species, mainly oaks and mountain mahogany,
comprised about 60% of the diet; grasses, about 26%; and
forbs (various species of "weeds") made up the
balance. On a yearlong basis, browse species comprised
49% of the diet; grasses, 42%; forbs, 9%.
The breeding season appears to be
rather extended, but most of the breeding is concentrated
in the 2 months from mid-September to mid-November. The
gestation period is about 160 days. Consequently, most of
the lambs are born between late February and late April,
but some lambs are born as late as November.
According to Ogren, females may become
sexually mature at the age of 8 months, but normally they
are older. All females 19 months of age or older that
were collected in the fall and winter season were gravid,
lactating, or ovulating.
Ogren developed a technique for aging
these sheep by examination of the dentition in the lower
jaw. The following scheme is adapted from his studies:
dentition complete and consists of four pairs of
deciduous incisiform teeth and three pairs of
molar erupted or erupting.
permanent incisor erupts.
molar erupting; deciduous premolars being
dentition except for outer two pairs of
incisiform teeth; last molar not fully exposed.
||Third pair of
permanent incisiform teeth present; last molar
fully exposed but unworn.
pair of deciduous incisiform teeth (the canines)
||Full set of
These sheep were first brought to
the United States in about 1900 and have been reared in
zoos and on private preserves for a number of years. They
were first released in the wild in New Mexico in 1950 and
in Texas in 1957, when 31 were released southwest of
Claude in Armstrong County. Thirteen more were released
near Quitaque. These introductions were highly successful
in the Palo Duro Canyon area. By May of 1966 the
population had increased to an estimated 400-500 sheep.
By 1963, the population had increased to such a level
that a controlled hunt was deemed advisable. Forty-two
permits were issued; six rams and three ewes were
harvested. In 1964, 50 permits were issued; eight rams
and seven ewes were harvested. In 1965, 70 permits
resulted in a harvest of eight rams and eight ewes.
Statewide, the population in 1989 was estimated at over
Whether this animal will eventually
become a pest, as have most of the "successful"
introduced animals, remains to be seen. There is some
evidence that they compete directly with mule deer for
food. They also have been observed feeding on winter
wheat crops growing adjacent to Palo Duro Canyon. In the
Trans-Pecos, Barbary sheep may have a deleterious impact
on bighorn sheep reintroduction efforts.
* nonnative species