Species: Ovis musimon
Super order Ungulates
Common name: mouflon
DistributionThe mouflon is native to Asia Minor and the Caucasus. In the mediterranean region it was introduced in Corsica, Sardinia and the island of Cyprus between 6000 and 7000 years ago. Today it is present in Italy in the Central Apennines and the Alps following reintroductions to the continent for hunting purposes. It was also reintroduced to the then hunting reserve of le Boréon (France) in the middle of the last century and then migrated to the Italian side of the Alps: this is how it arrived in the Maritime Alps Natural Park. Difficult to spot and limited to the summer period, the mouflon overwinters on the French side.
HabitatRocky areas alternating with herbaceous and shrubby plant formations, even at sea level.
AppearanceA short haired, stocky, brown sheep with a white belly. The males are more robust in size with massive elegant horns wrapped in a spiral. Females are smaller in size with small or no horns. In winter, males have a white fur spot on their backs (a "saddle").
FeedingUndemanding grazing ruminant, foliage grazer.
Reproduction The mouflon is gregarious throughout the year. The males join the herds of females and young in October - November and after some fights to establish the hierarchy, mating takes place. Gestation lasts 140-159 days, the births take place in March-April (one or, more rarely, two young).
Lifespan The maximum recorded ages are 12 years in males and 15 in females.
The mouflon in the Alps The Alpine population is estimated at about 4400-4800 animals (distributed in 40 colonies). The wolf and golden eagle are the true enemies of the mouflon; other predators occasionally hunt its young. The mouflon was particularly sensitive to the wolf's return to the Maritime Alps. Coming from areas without wolves (Mediterranean islands) it has not developed effective anti-predatory techniques, especially in snowy areas. So that in some areas, where wolf presence has consolidated, the mouflon has become extinct (Casentino forests) or greatly reduced in number, as in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and the Maritime Alps Park.
Stories, myths and legends** A Sardinian legend tells of a shepherd who lived in isolation and rarely went to the village, except for special occasions. Every morning he would get up early and lead his flock to pasture. One day while he was climbing to the top of the mountain, he saw a mouflon. He grabbed his rifle but the mouflon exclaimed, "Don't kill me, I am your grandfather's spirit!". The terrified shepherd ran away to his shack, just in time to save it from the fire that had broken out there and which, thanks to the mouflon, he was able to put out in time.