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Ovis orientalis

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Ovis orientalis

Mouflon in the Buffalo Zoo
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Ovis
Species: Ovis aries
Binomial name
Ovis aries
Linnaeus, 1758

O. orientalis
Ovis musimon
Ovis gmelini

The mouflon (Ovis aries orientalis[1] group) is a subspecies group of the wild sheep Ovis aries. Populations of Ovis aries can be partitioned into the mouflons and the urials (vignei group).[2] The mouflon is thought to be one of the two ancestors for all modern domestic sheep breeds.[3][4]


Mouflon have red-brown, short-haired coats with dark back-stripes and light-colored saddle patches. The males are horned; some females are horned while others are polled. The horns of mature rams are curved in almost one full revolution (up to 85 cm). Mouflon have shoulder heights of about 0.9 meters and body weights of 50 kg (males) and 35 kg (females).[5]


Today mouflon inhabit the Caucasus, northern Iraq, and northwestern Iran. The range originally stretched further to Anatolia, the Crimean peninsula and the Balkans, where they had already disappeared 3,000 years ago. Mouflon were introduced to the islands of Corsica, Sardinia, Rhodes and Cyprus during the neolithic period, perhaps as feral domesticated animals, where they have naturalized in the mountainous interiors of these islands over the past few thousand years, giving rise to the subspecies known as European mouflon (O. aries musimon).

On the island of Cyprus, the mouflon or agrino became a different and endemic species only found there, the Cyprus mouflon (Ovis orientalis ophion). The Cyprus mouflon population contains only about 3000 animals. They are now rare on the islands, but are classified as feral animals by the IUCN.[6] They were later successfully introduced into continental Europe, including Spain, France, Germany, central Italy, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, the Canary Islands, and even some northern European countries such as Sweden and Finland.

A small colony exists in the remote Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean, and on the Veliki Brijun Island in the Brijuni Archipelago of the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia. In South America, mouflon have been introduced into central Chile and Argentina.[7] Since the 1980s, they have also been successfully introduced to game ranches in North America for the purpose of hunting; however, on game ranches, purebreds are rare, as mouflon interbreed with domestic sheep and bighorn sheep. Mouflon have also been introduced into the Hawaiian islands of Lanai and Hawaii as game animals.

Their normal habitats are steep mountainous woods near tree lines. In winter, they migrate to lower altitudes.[5]


The scientific classification of the mouflon is disputed.[8] Five subspecies of mouflon are distinguished by MSW3:[2]

  • The Iranian red sheep or Armenian Mouflon, Ovis orientalis gmelini (Blyth, 1851), northwestern Iran, eastern and central Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. It has been introduced in Texas, USA.
  • The European mouflon, (O. o. musimon (Pallas, 1811) was introduced about 7,000 years ago in Corsica and Sardinia for the first time. It has since been introduced in many parts of Europe.
  • The Cypriot mouflon, (O. o. ophion Blyth, 1841), also called agrino, from the Greek Αγρινό was nearly extirpated during the 20th century. In 1997, about 1,200 of this subspecies were counted. The television show Born to Explore with Richard Wiese reported 3,000 are now on the island.
  • The Esfahan mouflon, O. o. isphahanica Nasonov, 1910, is from the Zagros Mountains, Iran.
  • The Laristan mouflon, O. o. laristanica Nasonov, 1909), is a small subspecies; its range is restricted to some desert reserves near Lar in southern Iran.

A mouflon was cloned successfully in early 2001 and lived at least seven months, making it the first clone of an endangered mammal to survive beyond infancy.[9][10][11] This demonstrated a common species (in this case, a domestic sheep) can successfully become a surrogate for the birth of an exotic animal such as the mouflon. If cloning of the mouflon can proceed successfully, it has the potential to reduce strain on the number of living specimens.

Mouflon in culture

  • The mouflon were mentioned to be on Lincoln Island in Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island.
  • The mouflon is featured on the symbol of Cyprus Airways, as well as on the 1-, 2-, and 5-cent Cypriot euro coins.
  • The mouflon is featured both on the symbol and as the nickname of the Cyprus national rugby union team.
  • The mouflon is featured on the historic flag of Armenian kingdom Syunik, as well as on the tombstones.
  • The similarity of the mouflon to domestic sheep, combined with its threatened status, has made it a subject of interest, both scientific and popular, in the use of biotechnology in species preservation.[12]

See also


Further reading

  • V. G. Heptner: Mammals of the Sowjetunion Vol. I Ungulates. Leiden, New York, 1989. ISBN 90-04-08874-1.

External links

  • ) in Hawaii
  • Sheep and mouflon: Like goats, converting native ecosystems to weeds and dust (Hawaii)
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