Iranian red sheep

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Iranian red sheep
Iranian red sheep
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Ovis
Species: O. orientalis
Trinomial name
O. o. gmelini

Iranian red sheep, Armenian sheep

Iranian red sheep or Armenian mouflon (Ovis orientalis gmelini) is an endangered subspecies of mouflon endemic to Armenia, Iran and Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan.


Ovis orientalis gmelini on a 2012 Armenian stamp

O. o. gmelini used to occupy the steppe and mountain foothills of northwestern and southwestern Iran, and later extended eastward from northwestern Iran to Alborz and Zagros. In Iraq, it is found in the northern Zagros mountains and along the northeastern border with Iran. In the former Soviet Union, O. o. gmelini is found in the Transcaucasus, particualry in the Zangezur range in Armenia (Khosrov Nature Reserve) and Nakhichevan (Ordubad Sanctuary), and in the southwestern tip of Azerbaijan.[1]


The Iranian red sheep lives mostly in open rough terrain at medium or high altitudes, where they inhabit rocky hill country, lowland and highland steppes, and rocky semi-deserts, as well as grass covered slopes and alpine meadows.

These alpine sheep spend the summer at the highest elevations, up to six thousand meters, right below the permanent snow. In winter they move lower and may come into the valleys.

They live in small or larger herds, and in the summer the older males live singly or in separate groups. They may live up to 18 years.

Number in the wild[edit]

In Iran, the largest population of O. o. gmelini (ca. 2,250) is found on Kabudan Island in Lake Urmia. Approximately 11,000 individuals inhabit Turkmenistan. The population is decreasing due to human economic activities, competition from domestic livestock and poaching.[1]

Protection measures[edit]

O. o. gmelini was listed in Category I of the USSR Red Data Book. In Armenia, its hunting has been forbidden since 1936. A captive breeding program has been initiated at the Zoological Institute of Armenia aiming to expand Khosrov Nature Reserve, reorganize the Orbubad Sanctuary into a state reserve, control livestock and reduce poaching.[1]

In Iran, hunting of O. o. gmelini is allowed only under permit, outside the protected areas, between September and February. Within the protected areas, grazing of domestic livestock is strictly controlled.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Valdez, R. (2008) Ovis orientalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

External links[edit]