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Mouflon, Cyprus


The mouflon is a subspecies group of wild sheep (Ovis orientalis).  Populations of O. orientalis can be partitioned into the mouflons (orientalis group) and the urials (vignei group). The mouflon is thought to be one of the two ancestors for all modern domestic sheep breeds.


Mouflon have red-brown, short-haired coats with dark back-stripes and light-colored saddle patches. The males have long curved horns almost a meter long.  Some females are horned, while others are polled.   Mouflon stand about 0.9 m at the shoulder and weight 50 kg (males) and 35 kg (females).


Today, mouflon inhabit the Caucasus, Anatolia, northern and eastern Iraq, and northwestern Iran and Armenia. The range originally stretched further to the Crimean peninsula and the Balkans, where they had already disappeared 3,000 years ago, and came back to Bulgaria.  

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. orientalis musimon).   

On the island of Cyprus, the mouflon became a different and endemic subspecies only found there, the Cyprus mouflon (O. o. ophion). The Cyprus mouflon population has only about 3,000 animals. They are rare but are classified as feral animals by the IUCN. 


Mouflon were later successfully introduced into continental Europe, including Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and the Canary Islands.  A small colony exists in the remote Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean, and on the Veliki Brijun Island of the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia.

In South America, mouflon have been introduced into central Chile and Argentina.  Since the 1980s, they have also been successfully introduced to game ranches in North America for the purpose of hunting; however, on game ranches, purebreds are rare as mouflon interbreed with domestic sheep and bighorn sheep.  Mouflon have been introduced as game animals into Spieden Island in Washington state, and into the Hawaiian islands of Lanai and Hawaii where they have become a problematic invasive species.  

A small population escaped from an animal enclosure owned by Thomas Watson, Jr. on the island of North Haven, Maine in the 1990s and still survives there.

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For a list of Ian Cook's photography and TravelGumbo contributions, please click on this link.


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