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Aoudad

Aoudad

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Description

Also known as the Barbary sheep, the aoudad closely resembles the North American bighorn sheep. It is stocky with a short tan-brown bristly coat. Both sexes have a heavy fringe of hair on their throat that in males extends down the neck to cover the chest and front legs. Both males and females have outward curved horns. Male horns, which can be twice as large as female horns, can measure up to 33 in (83 cm). The males use their horns in physical dominance fights, ramming heads as they compete for territory and females.

Cover photo: Adult male aoudad by Charlie Morey

Classification

Overview
The aoudad is a bovid, which is a group of mammals with cloven hooves and multi-chambered stomachs to help digest their plant-based diet. Aoudad are in the Caprini tribe of bovids, which includes the ancestors of domesticated goats and sheep.
Class
Mammalia
Order
Cetartiodactyla
Family
Bovidae
Tribe
Caprini
Genus
Ammotragus
Species
A. lervia

Key Facts

Conservation Status
Vulnerable
Lifespan
~10 years in the wild, 20+ years under human care
Height (at shoulder)
2.5 – 3.7 ft (~75 – 110 cm)
Weight
66 – 319 lbs (~30 – 145 kg)

The IUCN Red List describes the aoudad as a Vulnerable species, which is the least imperiled of the three IUCN ‘threatened with risk of extinction’ designations—Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered. Aoudad populations in Africa were assessed in 2020 and estimated to be between 5,000 – 10,000 individuals. Populations have been declining due to poaching, predation by feral dogs, and competition with domestic livestock.

Social Life
Aoudad males are generally solitary or found in small groups of females and young. Males are either solitary or form bachelor herds. Babies are standing and able to climb hills almost immediately after being born.

Habitat and Range
Aoudad live in arid, northern African mountains, specifically in the Atlas Mountains. Like most desert dwellers, they are most active in the cooler hours of dawn and dusk. They are excellent climbers and can clear a 6.6 ft (2 m) obstacle with ease from a standing start. Aoudad are also well adapted to a dry climate and are able to survive long periods of time without fresh water. They can obtain all needed moisture from their food, but if water is available they will drink and wallow.

Diet
Aoudad have a diverse diet, feeding on a variety of vegetation such as grass, forbs, shrubs and fruit. Their diet tends to change with the seasons. In the winter they eat predominantly grass, while shrubs are the more common food the rest of the year.

Predators
Historically leopards would hunt aoudad, but with large predators largely gone from northern Africa, the only natural predator that remains is the caracal. While caracals are smaller cats, they have been observed successfully catching prey up to three times their size, and can hunt young aoudad.

Reproduction
Sexual maturity: Male: 19 months, Female: 1 year
Mating Season:   September to November
Birth Season:       March to May
Gestation:            160 days
No. of Young:      1, rarely up to 3

Information

Description

Also known as the Barbary sheep, the aoudad closely resembles the North American bighorn sheep. It is stocky with a short tan-brown bristly coat. Both sexes have a heavy fringe of hair on their throat that in males extends down the neck to cover the chest and front legs. Both males and females have outward curved horns. Male horns, which can be twice as large as female horns, can measure up to 33 in (83 cm). The males use their horns in physical dominance fights, ramming heads as they compete for territory and females.

Cover photo: Adult male aoudad by Charlie Morey

Classification

Overview
The aoudad is a bovid, which is a group of mammals with cloven hooves and multi-chambered stomachs to help digest their plant-based diet. Aoudad are in the Caprini tribe of bovids, which includes the ancestors of domesticated goats and sheep.
Class
Mammalia
Order
Cetartiodactyla
Family
Bovidae
Tribe
Caprini
Genus
Ammotragus
Species
A. lervia

Key Facts

Conservation Status
Vulnerable
Lifespan
~10 years in the wild, 20+ years under human care
Height (at shoulder)
2.5 – 3.7 ft (~75 – 110 cm)
Weight
66 – 319 lbs (~30 – 145 kg)

The IUCN Red List describes the aoudad as a Vulnerable species, which is the least imperiled of the three IUCN ‘threatened with risk of extinction’ designations—Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered. Aoudad populations in Africa were assessed in 2020 and estimated to be between 5,000 – 10,000 individuals. Populations have been declining due to poaching, predation by feral dogs, and competition with domestic livestock.

Social Life
Aoudad males are generally solitary or found in small groups of females and young. Males are either solitary or form bachelor herds. Babies are standing and able to climb hills almost immediately after being born.

Habitat and Range
Aoudad live in arid, northern African mountains, specifically in the Atlas Mountains. Like most desert dwellers, they are most active in the cooler hours of dawn and dusk. They are excellent climbers and can clear a 6.6 ft (2 m) obstacle with ease from a standing start. Aoudad are also well adapted to a dry climate and are able to survive long periods of time without fresh water. They can obtain all needed moisture from their food, but if water is available they will drink and wallow.

Diet
Aoudad have a diverse diet, feeding on a variety of vegetation such as grass, forbs, shrubs and fruit. Their diet tends to change with the seasons. In the winter they eat predominantly grass, while shrubs are the more common food the rest of the year.

Predators
Historically leopards would hunt aoudad, but with large predators largely gone from northern Africa, the only natural predator that remains is the caracal. While caracals are smaller cats, they have been observed successfully catching prey up to three times their size, and can hunt young aoudad.

Reproduction
Sexual maturity: Male: 19 months, Female: 1 year
Mating Season:   September to November
Birth Season:       March to May
Gestation:            160 days
No. of Young:      1, rarely up to 3

aoudad group

Three adult male aoudad by Mark Pressler