Ovis gmelini musimon
Muflon, Musmon, Mufló (Sp), Mufflon (G), Mouflon (F).
DESCRIPTION (male) Shoulder height 26-30 inches (66-76 cm). Weight 70-100 pounds (32-45 kg). Females are a little smaller.
One of the world's smallest wild sheep, resembling a slim domestic sheep except that it has a normal coat of hair, any wool being concealed beneath. Upper parts are reddish-brown with a pale (almost white) saddle patch in the winter coat. Underparts, rump, lower legs and muzzle are white. There is dark neck ruff but no bib. The horns usually grow in a tight circle, with the tips turned inward toward the face and broomed back to about a three-quarter curl. In a purebred European mouflon, the tip-to-tip spread should not be the widest spread. Females sometimes grow small horns, but usually do not.
BEHAVIOR Gregarious. Females with young form year-round flocks; mature males have separate flocks. During the mating season in October-November, individual males join the females after battling for dominance. Lambs (usually one, sometimes twins) are born five months later. Females are sexually mature when less than one year old. Mainly a grazer, but browses to an extent. Feeds largely at night, resting by day in thick cover. Vision and hearing are excellent, sense of smell less so. A good runner. Alert and wary where hunted, and has good learning ability.
HABITAT Steep, wooded mountains near the treeline on Corsica and Sardinia. Has adapted to woodlands and meadows where introduced on the European mainland.
DISTRIBUTION Andorra,Spain and Portugal
Outside Europe, European mouflons have been introduced, both on private properties and in the wild, in the conterminous United States and in Argentina. Also on the islands of Lanai and Hawaii in the North Pacific Ocean, and the Kergulen Islands in the Indian Ocean.
TAXONOMIC NOTES Scientists do not agree on the origin of the European mouflon. Some regard it is as the ancestor of the domestic sheep, others as a feral descendant from domestic sheep. Traditionally it has been regarded as indigenous to Corsica and Sardinia, and from there introduced on the European mainland and elsewhere. However, some authorities now believe it is descended from domestic sheep transplanted to Corsica and Sardinia by humans thousands of years ago. Interestingly, the existence of wild sheep on Corsica and Sardinia was apparently unknown to Linnaeus, for they do not appear in his Systema Naturae, the work that is the starting point of zoological nomenclature. It was not until 1811 that German zoologist P.S. Pallas formally described them under the name Aegoceros musimon.
The systematics of the European mouflon are controversial. Some authorities consider it a full species, Ovis musimon, others as a subspecies of Asian mouflon (either O. gmelini or O. orientalis), still others as a race of domestic sheep (O. aries) or even as a race of argali (O. ammon). We have elected to follow Valdez and Nadler, who treat all mouflons as a full species, O. gmelini, of which the European mouflon is a subspecies, O. g. musimon. In record-keeping, we treat all European populations as indigenous.
STATUS Mouflons from Corsica and Sardinia, formerly considered endangered by the IUCN, have been upgraded to vulnerable.
REMARKS The purebred mouflon, especially an old male with large horns, is a fine game animal that is difficult to hunt. It is the only sheep that is mainly nocturnal and lives in thick cover. The premier hunting period is during the October-November rut, at roughly the same time as fallow deer, which makes for a good combination. Good heads can be found throughout Europe but traditionally the best trophies have come from the Czech Republic, with Spain also producing some very good heads.
There may be no such thing as a totally "pure" mouflon, because mouflons will cross with any other species of sheep (including domestic sheep) under certain conditions. Therefore, we apply the same morphological criteria for purebred mouflons in Europe as for introduced populations in North America and elsewhere.
The mouflons whose measurements are recorded here are believed to be purebred.