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Mouflon in the Buffalo Zoo
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Ovis
Species: Ovis aries
Binomial name
Ovis aries
Linnaeus, 1758

O. orientalis, Ovis musimon, Ovis gmelini

The mouflon (Ovis aries orientalis[1] group) is a subspecies group of the wild sheep Ovis aries. Populations of Ovis aries can be partitioned into the mouflons (orientalis group) and urials or arkars (vignei group).[2]

The mouflon is thought to be one of the two ancestors for all modern domestic sheep breeds.[3][4] It is red-brown with a dark back-stripe, light colored saddle patch and underparts. The males are horned; some females are horned while others lack horns. Mouflon have a shoulder height of about 0.9 meters and a body weight of 50 kg (males) and 35 kg (females).



A European Mouflon male in the German forest

Today mouflon inhabit the Caucasus, northern Iraq, and northwestern Iran. Originally the range stretched further to Anatolia, the Crimean peninsula and the Balkans, where they had already disappeared 3,000 years ago. 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. aries musimon). They are now rare on the islands but classified as feral animals by the IUCN.[5] They were later successfully introduced into continental Europe, including Spain, France, Germany, central Italy, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, the Canary Islands, and even some northern European countries such as Finland. A small colony exists in the remote Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean. Since the 1980s, mouflon have also been successfully introduced into game ranches in North America for the purpose of hunting; however in game ranches pure breeds are rare as mouflon interbreed with domestic sheep and bighorn sheep. Mouflon have also been introduced into Hawaii as game animals, where they cause serious damage to native plant species and are more difficult to control than other alien ungulates.


Mouflon female

The scientific classification of the mouflon is disputed.[6] Five subspecies of mouflon are distinguished by MSW3:[7]

  • European mouflon (Ovis orientalis musimon (Pallas, 1811)). About 7,000 years ago the European mouflon appeared in Corsica and Sardinia for the first time. It has been introduced in many parts of Europe.
  • Cypriot mouflon (Ovis orientalis ophion Blyth, 1841) (also called Agrino, from Greek Αγρινό). Cypriot mouflon was nearly extirpated during the 20th century. In 1997 about 1,200 of this subspecies were counted.
  • Iranian Red sheep (Ovis orientalis orientalis Gmelin, 1774). Caucasus, northwestern Iran and southern Anatolia. Scientific nomenclature unclear; sometimes also called gmelini.
  • Esfahan mouflon (Ovis orientalis isphahanica Nasonov, 1910). Zagros Mountains, Iran.
  • Laristan mouflon (Ovis orientalis laristanica Nasonov, 1909). A small subspecies, with range is restricted to some desert reserves near Lar in southern Iran.

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 demonstrates that a common species (in this case, a domestic sheep) can successfully provide a surrogate for the birth of an exotic animal like the mouflon. If cloning of the mouflon can proceed successfully, it has the potential to expand the species' gene pool and reduce strain on the number of living specimens.

Mouflon in Culture

  • The similarity of the mouflon to domestic sheep, combined with its threatened status, has made it a subject of interest, both scientific and popular, in the use of biotechnology in species preservation.[11]

See also


  • V. G. Heptner: Mammals of the Sowjetunion Vol. I Ungulates. Leiden, New York, 1989 ISBN 9004088741
  1. ^ Wilson & Reeder (Mammal species of the world) [1]
  2. ^ Don E. Wilson, DeeAnn M. Reeder: Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference 3rd Edition; Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2005. ISBN=0-8018-8221-4
  3. ^ Hiendleder S, Kaupe B, Wassmuth R, Janke A. (May 7 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 of London. Retrieved August 2 2006.  
  4. ^ Hiendleder S, Mainz K, Plante Y, Lewalski H. (March 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". Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Justus-Liebig University. Retrieved April 10 2007.  
  5. ^ International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (April 2009). ?freetext=mouflon&modifier=phrase&criteria=wholedb&terrestrial=1&taxa_species=1&taxa_subspc=1&redlistCategory%5B%5D=all&redlistAssessyear%5B%5D=all&country%5B%5D=all&aquatic%5B%5D=all&regions%5B%5D=all&habitats%5B%5D=all&threats%5B%5D=all&Submit.x=49&Submit.y=8 "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCN. ?freetext=mouflon&modifier=phrase&criteria=wholedb&terrestrial=1&taxa_species=1&taxa_subspc=1&redlistCategory%5B%5D=all&redlistAssessyear%5B%5D=all&country%5B%5D=all&aquatic%5B%5D=all&regions%5B%5D=all&habitats%5B%5D=all&threats%5B%5D=all&Submit.x=49&Submit.y=8. Retrieved 2009.  
  6. ^ Tonda, J. (2002). ""Ovis ammon"". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved November 19 2005.  
  7. ^ Don E. Wilson, DeeAnn M. Reeder: Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference 3rd Edition; Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2005. ISBN=0-8018-8221-4
  8. ^ Genetic rescue of an endangered mammal by cross-species nuclear transfer using post-mortem somatic cells. Loi P, Ptak G, Barboni B, Fulka J Jr, Cappai P, Clinton M. Nat Biotechnol. 2001 Oct;19(10):962-4. 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., Grazyna Ptak, Michael Clinton, Barbara Barbonib, Marco Muzzeddu, Pietro Cappai, Marian Tischner, and Pasqualino Loi, "Preservation of the Wild European Mouflon: The First Example of Genetic Management Using a Complete Program of Reproductive Biotechnologies". Biology of Reproduction 66:796-801 (2002).

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MOUFLON, or MUFLON, the wild sheep (Ovis musimon) of Corsica and Sardinia, where it is now very local. The ewes are either hornless or provided with quite small horns, the hornless form being probably characteristic of one island and the horned of the other. The rams carry good horns, and in summer show a conspicuous light saddle-shaped mark on the otherwise dark-coloured coat. The Armenian mouflon (0. orientalis), of Persia, Armenia, and the Troodos range of Cyprus, is typically a larger and redder sheep, with the horns curving in the reverse direction; but the Cyprian race is small. (See SHEEP.)

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