Barbary sheep

Barbary sheep

Ammotragus lervia

Common name:

Barbary sheep

Scientific name:

Ammotragus lervia

Alternative common names:


Barbary sheep are relatively large sheep from the dry, mountainous regions of North Africa. They are herbivorous, feeding on a variety of vegetation such as grass, forbs, and shrubs. Seasonal variation plays a role in determining their diet. They can survive for long periods without drinking fresh water by using metabolic water.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

North Africa.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 2.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Eastern Cape, Free State and Northern Cape.

How does it spread?

By escaping from private reserves.

Why is it a problem?

They compete with indigenous mule deer and bighorn sheep for space, food and water, and can be devastating to desert environments.

What does it look like?

Description: Barbary sheep stand 80-100cm tall at the shoulder and weigh 40-140kg. They are a sandy-brown colour, darkening with age, with a slightly lighter underbelly and a darker line along the back. The upper parts and outer parts of the legs are a uniform reddish-brown or greyish-brown. There is some shaggy hair on the throat (extending down to the chest in males) and a sparse mane. Their horns have a triangular cross section. The horns curve outwards, backwards, then inwards and reach up to 50cm. The horns are fairly smooth, with slight wrinkles evident at the base as the animal matures.

Habitat: Barbary sheep are found in arid mountainous areas where they graze and browse grasses, bushes and lichens. They are well adapted to their steep, rocky habitat.

Breeding: The breeding season usually occurs from September to November, but the timing can vary. Gestation lasts about 160 days, so most lambs are born between March and May, however, births have been seen as late as November. Although females usually produce a single offspring, one out of every six or seven births are twins.

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