Just What is an Aoudad?
Native to rugged areas of Northern Africa, the Aoudad, also known as Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia), is a tough and intelligent species of Caprid (goat-antelope). Aoudad are the only species in the genus Ammotragus. However, some include this genus in the goat genus Capra, and others in the sheep genus Ovis. From a hunting standpoint, they are usually considered a sheep.
Aoudad are a reddish-tan color, and the insides of their legs are whitish. There is no beard, but they do have a beautiful mane of long, soft hairs on the throat, chest, and upper part of the forelegs. The horns of the male sweep outward, backward, and then inward; they are rather heavy and wrinkled, and measure up to 34 inches in length. Females also have prominent horns although they are not as large as those of the male. They can retain water from sparse vegetation and survive long periods of time without it. This adaptation gives aoudad the ability to live in rugged, dry habitats that are too harsh for other animals. These factors combined with the Aoudad’s sense of smell, hearing and alertness to danger; make aoudad hunting very challenging.
Natural Range of Aoudad
Barbary sheep are native to northern Africa including: Algeria; Tunisia; Chad; Egypt; Libya; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Niger; and Sudan.
Aoudad Have Been Introduced Around the World
Aoudad are now rare in their native habitat of North Africa, but they have been successfully introduced around the world, where they are known as aoudad, barbary sheep, waddan, arui, and arruis. Barbary sheep have been introduced to southeastern Spain, the southwestern United States (Texas, New Mexico, and California), Mexico, and some parts of Africa.
Origin of the Aoudad in Texas
During World War II, American soldiers stationed in Chad and the Barbary Coast of Northern Africa discovered Aoudad and realized their potential as a game animal. After the war (late 40s & early 50s), these soldiers had some animals shipped to ranches in Texas.
They soon found that Aoudad are very hard to keep fenced in, and they escaped and have successfully reproduced in Texas. The first recorded Barbary Sheep in Texas were in Llano and Kerr counties, but their popularity quickly made them an in-demand species on game ranches throughout central and southern parts of the state.
It has been estimated that the Aoudad population in Texas has grown 1,800% since 1963. Actual numbers across Texas are not known but have been speculated to be 25,000+ animals.