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Cyprus mouflon (Ovis gmelini ophion).jpg
Cyprus mouflon (O. g. ophion)
male in the wild in Cyprus
CITES Appendix I (CITES) [1]
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Tribe: Caprini
Genus: Ovis
O. gmelini
Binomial name
Ovis gmelini
Blyth, 1841

Ovis orientalis orientalis

The mouflon (Ovis gmelini) is a wild sheep native to Cyprus, the Caspian region from eastern Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. [1] It is thought to be the ancestor of all modern domestic sheep breeds. [2] [3]



Ovis gmelini was the scientific name proposed by Edward Blyth in 1841 for wild sheep in the Middle East. [4] In the 19th and 20th centuries, several wild sheep were described that are considered mouflon subspecies today: [5]


Five mouflon subspecies of are distinguished by MSW3: [8]

The European mouflon was once thought to be a subspecies of the mouflon, but is now considered to be a feral descendant of the domestic sheep (Ovis aries), as Ovis aries musimon. [9]

Relation to other sheep

Based on comparison of mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequences, three groups of sheep ( Ovis ) have been identified: Pachyceriforms of Siberia (snow sheep) and North America (bighorn and Dall sheep), Argaliforms (argali) of Central Asia, and Moufloniforms (urial, mouflon, and domestic sheep) of Eurasia. [10] However, a comparison of the mitochondrial DNA control region (CR) found that two subspecies of urial, Ovis vignei (or orientalis) arkal and O. v./o. bochariensis, grouped with two different clades of argali (Ovis ammon). [3]

The ancestral sheep is presumed to have had 60 chromosomes, as in goats (Capra). Mouflon and domestic sheep have 54 chromosomes, with three pairs (1+3, 2+8, 5+11) of ancestral acrocentric chromosomes joined to form bi-armed chromosomes. This is in contrast to the argali and urial, which have 56 and 58 chromosomes respectively. If the urial is as closely related to the mouflons as mitochondrial DNA indicates, then two chromosomes would need to have split during its evolution away from the mouflon (sub)species. [10]


Ewe Ovis musimon 04.jpg

Mouflon has reddish to dark brown, short-haired coats with dark back stripes and black ventral areas and light-colored saddle patches. The males are horned; some females are horned, while others are polled. The horns of mature rams are curved almost one full revolution (up to 85 cm). Mouflon have shoulder heights of around 0.9 m and body weights of 50 kg (males) and 35 kg (females). [11]

Distribution and habitat

Mouflon are found in the Lesser Caucasus in southeastern Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in Iran's western Alborz region and the Zagros Mountains spanning across eastern Iraq and western Iran. [1] It was possibly introduced to Cyprus during the Neolithic period. [12]

Behaviour and ecology


Mouflon rams have a strict dominance hierarchy. Before mating season or "rut", which is from late autumn to early winter, rams try to create a dominance hierarchy to determine access to ewes (female mouflon) for mating. Mouflon rams fight one another to obtain dominance and win an opportunity to mate with females. Mouflons reach sexual maturity at the age of 2 to 4 years. Young rams need to obtain dominance before they get a chance to mate, which takes another 3 years for them to start mating. Mouflon ewes also go through a similar hierarchy process in terms of social status in the first 2 years, but can breed even at low status. Pregnancy in females lasts 5 months, in which they produce one to two offspring.[ citation needed ]

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. [13] [14] [15] This demonstrated that a common species (in this case, a domestic sheep) can successfully become a surrogate for the birth of an exotic animal such as the mouflon. If cloning of the mouflon can proceed successfully, it has the potential to reduce strain on the number of living specimens.


The mouflon is protected in Armenia and Azerbaijan. In Turkey and Iran, hunting is only allowed with a special license. The population in Cyprus is listed as a strictly protected species in the Habitats Directive of the European Union and has been listed in CITES Appendix I since November 2019. [1]

In culture

The male mouflon is called Mufro in Corsica, and the female Mufra; the French naturalist Buffon (17071788) rendered this in French as moufflon. In Sardinia, the male is called Murvoni, and the female Murva, though it is not unusual to hear the peasants style both indiscriminately Mufion, which is a palpable corruption of the Greek Ophion. [16]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Caprinae</span> Subfamily of mammals

The subfamily Caprinae, also sometimes referred to as the tribe Caprini, is part of the ruminant family Bovidae, and consists of mostly medium-sized bovids. A member of this subfamily is called a caprine, or, more informally, a goat-antelope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Urial</span> Species of mammal

The urial, also known as the arkars or shapo, is a wild sheep native to Central and South Asia. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bighorn sheep</span> Species of sheep native to North America

The bighorn sheep is a species of sheep native to North America. It is named for its large horns. A pair of horns might weigh up to 14 kg (30 lb); the sheep typically weigh up to 143 kg (315 lb). Recent genetic testing indicates three distinct subspecies of Ovis canadensis, one of which is endangered: O. c. sierrae.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dall sheep</span> Species of mammal

Ovis dalli, also known as the Dall sheep or thinhorn sheep, is a species of wild sheep native to northwestern North America. Ovis dalli contains two subspecies: Ovis dalli dalli and Ovis dalli stonei. O. dalli live in mountainous alpine habitats distributed across northwestern British Columbia, the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska. They browse a variety of plants such as grasses, sedges and even shrubs such as willow, during different times of the year. They also acquire minerals to supplement their diet from mineral licks. Like other Ovis species, the rams engage in dominance contests with their horns.

<i>Capra</i> (genus) Genus of mammals, the goats

Capra is a genus of mammals, the goats, composed of up to nine species, including the markhor and many species known as ibexes. The domestic goat is a domesticated species derived from the wild goat. Evidence of goat domestication dates back more than 8,500 years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wild goat</span> Species of mammal

The wild goat is a wild goat species, inhabiting forests, shrublands and rocky areas ranging from Turkey and the Caucasus in the west to Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east. It has been listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List and is threatened by destruction and degradation of habitat.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bharal</span> Species of wild sheep native to the Himalayas

The bharal, also called the blue sheep, is a caprine native to the high Himalayas. It is the only member of the genus Pseudois. It occurs in India, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. The Helan Mountains of Ningxia have the highest concentration of bharal in the world, with 15 bharals per km2 and 30,000 in total.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Argali</span> Species of sheep

The argali, also known as the mountain sheep, is a wild sheep that roams the highlands of western East Asia, the Himalayas, Tibet, and the Altai Mountains.

<i>Ovis</i> Genus of mammals

Ovis is a genus of mammals, part of the Caprinae subfamily of the ruminant family Bovidae. Its seven highly sociable species are known as sheep or ovines. Domestic sheep are members of the genus, and are thought to be descended from the wild mouflon of central and southwest Asia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Swaledale sheep</span> Breed of sheep

Swaledale is a breed of domestic sheep named after the Yorkshire valley of Swaledale in England. They are found throughout the more mountainous areas of Great Britain, but particularly in the Yorkshire Dales, County Durham, and around the pennine fells of Cumbria.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marco Polo sheep</span> Subspecies of argali sheep

The Marco Polo sheep is a subspecies of argali sheep, named after Marco Polo. Their habitat are the mountainous regions of Central Asia. Marco Polo sheep are distinguishable mostly by their large size and spiraling horns. Their conservation status is "near threatened" and efforts have been made to protect their numbers and keep them from being hunted. It has also been suggested that crossing them with domestic sheep could have agricultural benefits.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shikahogh State Reserve</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Armenian mouflon</span>

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Ovis orientalis may refer to:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">European mouflon</span> Subspecies of mammal

The European mouflon is a feral subspecies of the primitive domestic sheep. It was originally found only on the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia, but has since been introduced into many other regions of Europe. It is not to be confused with Ovis gmelini, also called the mouflon, which is found in Western Asia and is also ancestral to modern domestic sheep.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bezoar ibex</span> Subspecies of goat

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Domestication of the sheep</span> Aspect of history surrounding the domestic sheep

The history of the domestic sheep goes back to between 11,000 and 9,000 BC, and the domestication of the wild mouflon in ancient Mesopotamia. Sheep are among the first animals to have been domesticated by humans. These sheep were primarily raised for meat, milk, and skins. Woolly sheep began to be developed around 6000 BC. They were then imported to Africa and Europe via trading.

The animal name changes in Turkey is the revision of taxonomic nomenclature of three subspecies by the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The name changes removed references to Armenia and Kurdistan in the taxonomic nomenclature of subspecies of each animal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bovidae in Chinese mythology</span>

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