The Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) is a relatively large species of caprid, or goat-antelope. It is native to Northern Africa and can now be found in southeastern Spain, the southwestern US, and parts of Mexico. These desert-dwelling grazers are also known as aoudad or auddan.
The Barbary sheep is adapted to hot, dry, and barren areas. It takes in most of its water through the plants it eats, but will drink and bathe in water if it’s present. Its large, curved horns contain a rich blood supply, which helps keep it cool in the hot, dry desert. In addition to its horns, the Barbary sheep is characterized by a sandy-brown, bristly coat and long hair on the chest, front legs, and throat.
Barbary sheep, like most desert-dwelling animals, seek shade during the day and are most active at dawn and dusk, when it’s cooler. They are expert climbers and jumpers and can ascend and descend extremely steep slopes; this ability to out-climb humans makes them difficult to hunt. Because they dwell in areas with little to no cover, their coloring helps them elude predators. In North Africa, they were preyed upon by the caracal, Barbary lion, and Barbary leopard, but today, their main threat comes from humans.
Despite their agility, hunting has depleted the Barbary sheep population in Africa; however, their introduction into the wild of the southwestern US in the 1950s led to a slight increase in ...