The Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) is a species of goat-antelope native to rocky desert areas of northern Africa. It resembles a goat more than a sheep in many ways. Impressive horns are possessed both by males and females. Females are about half the size of males. The sheep avoid the high temperatures of their habitat by spending a great deal of time in the shade and feeding primarily in the evening and sometimes in the nighthours. Babrbary sheep live in small troops. They are estimated to live up to 10 years in the wild. The spices is classified as vulnerable to extinction.
The almost total lack of vegetation tall enough to conceal this animal resulted in its developing an exceptional ability to hide by remaining motionless whenever danger threatens. Although sources of water are few, the Barbary is able to obtain sufficient moisture from green vegetation and the dew that condenses on leaves during the cold desert nights. Nonetheless, population decreases sharply during periods of drought.
The species was introduced in western Texas for purposes of sport hunting and population of some thousands of animals are now established in Texas, New Mexico and California. Exotic species may pose a variety of dangers to native wildlife. The diet of Barbary sheep, for example, is very similar to that of desert bighorn sheep, a species that had declined sharply in the American Southwest. Barbary sheep also compete for food with mule deer, the most important large game animal in western North America.
Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia)
Photos © Larysa Johnston
More about Barbary sheep here:
- Alien Species in North America and Hawaii. George W. Cox
- Walker's Mammals of the World. Ronald M. Nowak
- Encyclopedia of Deserts. Michael A. Mares