The Mouflon

The Mouflon

The mouflon is the national symbol of Cyprus and is thought to be one of two original ancestors of all modern day sheep. It originated on the islands of Corsica, Sardina, and Cyprus. Like most wild sheep, the mouflon lives in mountainous terrain, usually above the tree line or in mountain meadows.

There are very few Mouflon left in the wild on the island of Cyprus but there is a small breeding herd in a protected area

in the Troodos mountains which aims to increase the numbers and eventually return some to the wild.

The Mouflon has a red-brown colour with a dark area along its back, and lighter coloured side patches. Its under parts are white as well as the bottom half of their legs. It has a white muzzle and white circles around its eyes.

Both males and females have horns, but those of the males are larger. The curved, spiral horns are usually around 25 inches in length and are arched back over its head.

A Mouflon is about the size of a medium sheep with a weight range of 55-120 pounds. They are 4-5 feet long, and stand about 2-4 feet tall at the shoulders. They have a rough coat, and during the winter grow a woolly under coat that keeps them warm.

The males and females live in separate groups and only come together during mating season. The ewes will usually have the better foraging grounds because their health is more important for reproduction. Mouflon mate, or go through a rut, in late autumn to early winter. The rams' dominance is determined by his age and the size of his horns. They will crash their horns together to re-enforce dominance. The ewes don't mate until they are about 2-3 years old. Males don't mate until they are about 7 years old because they have to establish a strong social standing before being allowed to mate with a female. The ewes are pregnant 210 days and can give birth to either one, or twin lambs. The ewe will go into cover to have her lamb which is up on its feet within minutes after birth.

The mouflon's diet is tough. Being a herbivore, it grazes on short grasses, heather, and shrubs.

Natural predators like bears and wolves have disappeared from the mouflon's range although eagles can pose a problem for young lambs. The mouflon is a shy animal which feeds mostly at night and doesn't stay long in one place.

Over the last 50 years the mouflon numbers have fallen due to habitat loss, hunting, and interbreeding with domestic sheep and the Mouflon is classed as an endangered species which makes captive breeding essential to save it from extinction.

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