A group of Mouflon at the Buffalo Zoo
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Synapsida
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Ovis
Species: O. orientalis
Binomial name
Ovis orientalis
Linnaeus, 1758

Ovis aries
Ovis musimon
Ovis gmelini

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


A European mouflon male in the German forest

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 m and body weights of 50 kg (males) and 35 kg (females).[4]


Mouflon ram

Today, mouflon inhabit the Caucasus, Anatolia, northern and eastern Iraq, and northwestern Iran and Armenia. The range originally stretched further to the Crimean peninsula and the Balkans, where they had already disappeared 3,000 years ago and came back to Bulgaria. 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. orientalis musimon).

On the island of Cyprus, the mouflon or agrino became a different and endemic subspecies only found there, the Cyprus mouflon (O. o. ophion). The Cyprus mouflon population contains only about 3,000 animals. They are now rare on the islands, but are classified as feral animals by the IUCN.[5] They were later successfully introduced into continental Europe, including Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, central Italy, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, the Canary Islands, and even some northern European countries such as Denmark, 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.[6] 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 been introduced as game animals into Spieden Island in Washington state, and into the Hawaiian islands of Lanai and Hawaii where they have become a problematic invasive species. A small population escaped from an animal enclosure owned by Thomas Watson, Jr. on the island of North Haven, Maine in the 1990s and still survives there.

Their normal habitats are steep mountainous woods near tree lines. In winter, they migrate to lower altitudes.[4]



The scientific classification of the mouflon is disputed.[7] Five subspecies of mouflon are distinguished by MSW3:[1]

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.[8][9][10] 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 rams have a strict dominance hierarchy. Before mating season or "rut", which is from late autumn to early winter, rams try to create a dominance hierarchy to determine access to ewes (female mouflon) for mating. Mouflon rams fight one another to obtain dominance and win an opportunity to mate with females. Mouflons reach sexual maturity at the age of 2 to 4 years. Young rams need to obtain dominance before they get a chance to mate, which takes another 3 years for them to start mating. Mouflon ewes also go through a similar hierarchy process in terms of social status in the first 2 years, but can breed even at low status. Pregnancy in females lasts 5 months, in which they produce 1 to 2 offspring.

Mouflon in culture

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Wilson, Don E.; Reeder, DeeAnn M. (2005). Mammal Species of the World A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-8221-4.
  2. Hiendleder, S; Kaupe, B; Wassmuth, R; Janke, A (2002). "Molecular analysis of wild and domestic sheep questions current nomenclature and provides evidence for domestication from two different subspecies". Proceedings. Biological sciences / the Royal Society. 269 (1494): 893–904. doi:10.1098/rspb.2002.1975. PMC 1690972Freely accessible. PMID 12028771.
  3. Hiendleder, S.; Mainz, K.; Plante, Y.; Lewalski, H. (1998). "Analysis of mitochondrial DNA indicates that domestic sheep are derived from two different ancestral maternal sources: No evidence for contributions from urial and argali sheep". Journal of Heredity. 89 (2): 113–20. doi:10.1093/jhered/89.2.113. PMID 9542158.
  4. 1 2 MacDonald, David; Priscilla Barret (1993). Mammals of Britain & Europe. 1. London: HarperCollins. pp. 220–221. ISBN 0-00-219779-0.
  5. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (April 2009). "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCN. Retrieved 2009. Check date values in: |access-date= (help) More specifically, in the island of Cyprus they became a new endemic species only found there, the "Cyprus mouflon" (Ovis orientalis ophion)
  6. "Mouflon hunting in Chile and Argentina".
  7. Tonda, J. (2002). "Ovis ammon". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved November 19, 2005.
  8. Loi, P; Ptak, G; Barboni, B; Fulka Jr, J; Cappai, P; Clinton, M (2001). "Genetic rescue of an endangered mammal by cross-species nuclear transfer using post-mortem somatic cells". Nature Biotechnology. 19 (10): 962–4. doi:10.1038/nbt1001-962. PMID 11581663.
  9. Trivedi, Bijal P. (2001). "Scientists Clone First Endangered Species: a Wild Sheep". National Geographic Today. Retrieved February 21, 2006.
  10. Winstead E (October 12, 2001). "Endangered wild sheep clone reported to be healthy". Genome News Network. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
  11. E.g. Ptak, G; Clinton, M; Barboni, B; Muzzeddu, M; Cappai, P; Tischner, M; Loi, P (2002). "Preservation of the wild European mouflon: The first example of genetic management using a complete program of reproductive biotechnologies". Biology of Reproduction. 66 (3): 796–801. doi:10.1095/biolreprod66.3.796. PMID 11870088.

Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ovis musimon and Ovis orientalis.
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