The mouflon (Ovis aries orientalis 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). The mouflon is thought to be one of the two ancestors for all modern domestic sheep breeds.
Mouflon have a red-brown short-haired coat with a dark back-stripe, light colored saddle patch . The males are horned; some females are horned while others lack horns. The horn is curved in almost one full revolution (up to 85 cm). Mouflon have a shoulder height of about 0.9 meters and a body weight of 50 kg (males) and 35 kg (females).
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). In the island of Cyprus the moulfon or Agrino became a different and endemic species, which only found in Cyprus, the Cyprus moulfon (Ovis orientalis ophion). The Cyprus moulfon is only about 3000 animals. They are now rare on the islands but classified as feral animals by the IUCN. They were later successfully introduced into continental Europe, including Spain, France, Germany, central Italy, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, the Canary Islands, and even some northern European countries such as Sweden and Finland. A small colony exists in the remote Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean, and on the Veliki Brijun Island in the Brijuni Archipelago of the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia. In South America mouflon have been introduced into central Chile and Argentina. 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.
Their habitat is steep mountainous woods near the tree line. In Winter they migrate to lower altitudes.
- Armenian mouflon (Ovis orientalis gmelini (Blyth, 1851)). It has been introduced in Texas state of USA.
- 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. 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 mouflon is featured on the symbol of Cyprus Airways, as well as on the 1, 2, and 5 cent Cypriot euro coins.
- The mouflon is featured on the historic flag of Armenian kingdom Syunik, as well as on the tombstones.
- 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.
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- 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. http://jhered.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/89/2/113. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
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- International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (April 2009). ? More specifically in the island of Cyprus they became a new endymic species that only found there the "Cyprus Moulfon" (Ovis orientalis ophion) ,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®ions%5B%5D=all&habitats%5B%5D=all&threats%5B%5D=all&Submit.x=49&Submit.y=8 "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCN. http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/15739/0/full ? More specifically in the island of Cyprus they became a new endymic species that only found there the "Cyprus Moulfon" (Ovis orientalis ophion) ,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®ions%5B%5D=all&habitats%5B%5D=all&threats%5B%5D=all&Submit.x=49&Submit.y=8. Retrieved 2009.
- "Mouflon hunting in Chile and Argentina". http://www.huntingchile16.50megs.com/about_11.html.
- Tonda, J. (2002). "Ovis ammon". Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Ovis_ammon.html. Retrieved November 19, 2005.
- 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
- Trivedi, Bijal P. (2001). "Scientists Clone First Endangered Species: a Wild Sheep". National Geographic Today. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/10/1025_TVsheepclone.html. Retrieved February 21, 2006.
- Winstead E (October 12, 2001). "Endangered wild sheep clone reported to be healthy". Genome News Network. http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/10_01/cloned_sheep.shtml. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
- 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).