Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Argali Sheep

Ovis ammon


The argali sheep is a large sheep that can grow to weigh between 60-185 kg and have a shoulder height between 90-125 cm. Both male and female argali sheep have corkscrew shaped horns; the horns of female sheep are generally smaller than those of the males. Male’s horns can be 190 cm in length, when measured along the coil.  Males of this species tend to be larger than the females and also tend to have a lighter colored neck. Argali sheep have two-toned coats with a lateral dark band along the belly; the upper half of the coat is dark brown while the lower half is pale. Argali sheep also have a pale face and rump patch. During the summer the coat of this species is darker than the longer winter coat.


Argali sheep can be found in the mountains of central Asia at elevations above 1000 m, including the Irtysh River and Altria Mountains of Siberia and the Himalayas in Tibet. The range of this species also extends to the Oxus River near Afghanistan and to the Mongolian plateau. This species prefers habitats with prime vegetation and very few trees. 

Feeding Behavior and Diet

This species is herbivorous and consume vegetation that is easily acquired and easily digested. Most of the diet consists of grasses, herbs, and sedges.


Argali sheep breed in autumn and early winter. This species is polygynandrous, meaning multiple matings occur in a season between many partners. Dominant male argali sheep herd harems of females during rut/breeding season and mate with multiple females. Females will also mate with multiple males if dominance changes within a season. Males battle for access to females by smashing their horns together, determining dominance by size and strength. Females produce 1-2 lambs in the late spring, about 150-180 days after mating occurs. Lambs are weaned at about 4 months and then they form their own social groups separate from the mothers. Females reach sexual maturity at 2 years of age while males do not reach sexual maturity until 5 years of age.

Months and Times of Activity

Females and young feed at higher altitudes with lower food quality where it is easy to escape predators while males feed at lower elevations where food quality is higher.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

  • The IUCN has classified this species as vulnerable due to over hunting practices.
  • Argali sheep are herding sheep, found in groups of 2-100 individuals. These herds are segregated by sex, except during rut/breeding season. Members of the herd are very social and individuals will seek contact with other sheep because it increases safety against predators.
  • The argali sheep is the world’s largest species of sheep.
  • Children’s book featuring this animal:  THE SHEEP by Mark Ashlstrom


Tonda, J. 2002. "Ovis ammon" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 03, 2014 at