Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Barbary Sheep or Aoudad

Ammotragus lervia


Barbary sheep are very large with brown hair covering most of the body. Long white hair forms a ventral mane on the chin, throat, chest, and inner limbs. The ventral mane appears as a very long beard. Males tend to be larger than females in this species; males weigh 145 kg while females weigh 65 kg at most. Both sexes of this species have outward curving horns that curve backwards and point inwards toward the neck. Female Barbary sheep tend to have smaller horns than males


This species can be found in the hills of the Sahara and major mountains of North Africa. Barbary sheep have been introduced into Germany and Italy. Some have been released in New Mexico and Texas to develop a wild population in southwestern United States. Barbary sheep prefer Desert Mountains and canyons. This species can survive in very dry climates.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Barbary sheep are herbivores; which means they only feed on vegetation. This species prefers grasses, forbs, and shrubs. Diet is determined by the vegetation available seasonally within their habitat. During the winter months, grasses are mostly consumed while shrubs are consumed the rest of the year.


Breeding season occurs from September through November. Females lick the side of males chosen for mating during estrus. Males will defend access to groups of females from other males by charging and making contact with their horns. Males also “wrestle” by butting heads or hooking horns and twisting in a gouging movement. Females produce a single offspring between March and May, about 160 days after mating. Lambs (young Barbary sheep) reach sexual maturity between 8 and 19 months, males tend to reach sexual maturity later than females.

Months and Times of Activity

This species is active during all times of the year. Barbary sheep tend to be most active diurnally (during the day).

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

  • Hierarchal social dominance is seen in this species through linear descent. Males tend to be the most dominant but large groups are led by dominant females. Dominance between juveniles is determined by their bond with the mother.
  • Barbary sheep are able to survive in dry climates because they can go a long time without water because they can produce more metabolic water.
  • To read legends featuring this animal go to:
  • Children’s book featuring this animal: WILD & Woolly by Mary Jessie Parker


Steinway, M. 2000. "Ammotragus lervia" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 03, 2014 at