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Aoudad Sheep

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TexasHuntFish.comThe Aoudad (Ammotragus lervia) or Barbary Sheep is orginally from North Africa.  They were originally released into the Palo Duro Canyon of Texas in 1957-58, where it has become firmly established.  Also present in the Edwards Plateau, Trans-Pecos, South Texas, Rolling Plains, and Post Oak Savannah regions as a result of private introductions.  Technically, they are not considered a pure sheep but actually have morphological and biological features of both a sheep and a goat. Mature males will have a live weight of up to 275 pounds, and both males and females grow horns, but male’s horns grow considerably larger.  A respectable free range aoudad trophy will sport horns in excess of 27”, and anything over 30” is considered exceptionally good.  Aoudads have a unique pelage characterized by a solid color throughout their body which is sandy color and blends exceptionally well with their environment. Additionally, they have a striking long beard which runs from their throat all the way down to their chest, and they also sport long hair as chaps on their front legs, thus they make impressive life-size or half-size mounts.

General Characteristics
Body Length: 4.3-5.5 feet
Shoulder Height: 2.5-3.7 feet
Tail Length: 6-8 inches
Weight: 66-319 pounds (30-145 kilograms)

The short, bristly outer coat is reddish to sandy brown in colour.  The underparts are moderately lighter.  Both sexes have a heavy fringe of hair on their throat, although in males this extends down the neck to encompass the chest and front legs. The tail is also fringed.  The body is quite thick and sturdy.  The thick, triangular-based horns are found in both sexes, although they are slightly larger in males.  The horns have numerous fine rings, although in older individuals these may be worn down, causing the horn surface to look smooth.  They curve in a semi-circle over the back, up to 22 inches.

Ecology and Behavior
This sheep is adapted to a dry, rough, barren, and waterless habitat — much as is the native bighorn sheep of our southwestern deserts.  Consequently, it is quite likely that these two could not survive together in the same area because of competition between them.

These sheep live in small groups comprised of old and young animals of both sexes.  They are expert climbers and can ascend and descend slopes so precipitous that man can negotiate them only with great difficulty.  Consequently, they are difficult to hunt.

Their food consists of a wide variety of vegetation including grasses, forbs, and shrubs.  Apparently, they are capable of producing metabolic water and can survive for long periods without access to fresh water.  However, when water is available they utilize it for both drinking and bathing.

In studies conducted in New Mexico, Herman Ogren found that 79 species of plants were included in the diet of these sheep; of these, 13 were grasses, 20 were shrubs and the remainder forbs.  Mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus breviflorus) was the most sought-for single plant.  On a yearlong basis this species comprised nearly 22% of the items found in rumens of the sheep.  Ogren found some seasonal variation in the diet.  In winter, grasses comprised 86% of the rumen contents; browse, 11%; forbs, 3%.  In spring, summer, and fall the browse species, mainly oaks and mountain mahogany, comprised about 60% of the diet; grasses, about 26%; and forbs (various species of "weeds") made up the balance.  On a yearlong basis, browse species comprised 49% of the diet; grasses, 42%; forbs, 9%.

Like most desert dwellers, the aoudad is most active in the cooler hours of dawn and dusk, seeking shade and shelter during the day.  Aoudad are exceptionally sure-footed and have such jumping power that they can clear a 2 meter / 6.6 foot obstacle with ease from a standing start.  The lack of vegetation for cover in their habitat has caused the aoudad to conceal itself by freezing in the presence of danger. 

Gestation Period: 160 days
Young per Birth: 1, rarely up to 3
Weaning: At 3-4 months
Sexual Maturity: After 18 months
Life span: 20 years.

Although breeding can occur throughout the year, there is a peak from mid-September to mid-November, with the subsequent young being born from March to May.  The gestation period is about 160 days.  Females may give birth twice per year. Consequently, most lambs are born between late February and late April, but some lambs are born as late as November.  Newborns are able to negotiate the rocky hills almost immediately after birth.

According to Ogren, females may become sexually mature at the age of 8 months, but normally they are older.  All females 19 months of age or older that were collected in the fall and winter season were gravid, lactating, or ovulating.

Ogren developed a technique for aging these sheep by examination of the dentition in the lower jaw. The following scheme is adapted from his studies:

Age Condition of Dentition
3 weeks Deciduous dentition complete and consists of four pairs of deciduous incisiform teeth and three pairs of deciduous premolars.
8 months First permanent molar erupted or erupting.
17 months Second permanent molar erupting.
18 months First (inner) permanent incisor erupts.
21 months Third permanent molar erupting; deciduous premolars being replaced.
23 months Second deciduous incisor shed.
27 months Permanent dentition except for outer two pairs of incisiform teeth; last molar not fully exposed.
36 months Third pair of permanent incisiform teeth present; last molar fully exposed but unworn.
48 months Fourth (outer) pair of deciduous incisiform teeth (the canines) being replaced.
60 months Full set of permanent teeth.

Whether this animal will eventually become a pest, as have most of the "successful" introduced animals, remains to be seen.  There is some evidence that they compete directly with mule deer for food.  They also have been observed feeding on winter wheat crops growing adjacent to Palo Duro Canyon.  In the Trans-Pecos, Barbary sheep may have a deleterious impact on bighorn sheep reintroduction efforts. 

Family group: Generally solitary or in small groups
Diet: Sparse grasses, bushes, acacia, lichens
Main Predators: Leopard, caracal

This excerpt is from Record of Exotics (dedication by Thompson Temple). If you would like more information from this document, CLICK HERE. If you would like to see the top 10 records, you can purchase the book with the full list for each animal.

This exotic is tan in color with a long beard on the bottom of the neck and chaps on the front legs. Both the males and females have horns that grow out and back over their necks. Aoudad usually travel in herds. Mature males are frequently separate from the others except in the breeding season. They usually breed in October. A large male will weigh about 250 pounds while a female will weigh 100 pounds. The Aoudad is the wildest and most elusive of all the exotic species.

CLICK HERE to score an Aoudad Sheep.


Author:Paleo Comment Left:03/13/2007 07:13
We had 20 or so come through this winter but I haven't got a shot at one yet. That was around Leakey.
Author:bubbadog51 Comment Left:03/23/2007 13:48
Hi debbra  What is the cost to come to texas to hunt one of the Aoudads, never been to texas to hunt was ststioned their in the service but didnt have time to hunt. My dream hunt is to come to texas and hunt the elusive whitetail would love also to hunt Aoudads could you email me if you have these answers Thank you so much Wayne email