ARGALI

This is a cloven-footed mammal of tubicorn species. The argali is the biggest representative of mouflons: its body length is 120-200 cm, the weight is 65-180 kilos. The lifespan is 10-13 years. The horns are up to 190 cm in length; they are curled in spiral with ends facing upward. The males’ horns are much bigger than females’ ones; they may account for 13% of total bodyweight.
Depending on the size and coloration there are several subspecies of the argali. The coloration of the body varies from light-sandy to dark grey-brown. The face and the rump are light colored. The male species have the collar of light hair around neck as well as longer hair on the hackle. The winter “dress” is much lighter and longer. The legs are rangy and lengthy.

In case of danger adult animals make spitting sounds while the young ones make bleating sounds.

The argali populate mountain and piedmont regions at the altitude of 1300–6100 meters.

The animals prefer open spaces – steppe hill-sides with rocks, alpine meadows, shrubby rocky gorges and rocky valleys. The argali avoid thick wooded vegetation. During summertime they ascend up to the alpine belt regions with lots of herbal vegetation; in the winter the animals go down to lower pastures with little snow.

The argali live in groups of up to 100 animals; the males and females keep apart from each other when there is no coupling period. The females reach reproductive age at two years; the male species need five years for the same. The breeding period is from October to November. The males compete for the right to possess the female in the beginning of the coupling period by clashing each other with their horns. The gestation lasts for 150-160 days resulting in 1-2 lambs being born. Shortly before the calving time (which is in early spring) the female separates itself from the herd and finds a recess where it spends first days with its lambs. The mother cares for her offspring for about 4 months after which the lambs become fully independent. The males do not take part in nurturing the brood.

The main reasons that lead to decrease in number and range are considered to be uncontrolled hunting and driving the animals out of their original habitats due to grazing of livestock.

The wildlife reserves are arranged in order to conserve the species; the hunting is strictly prohibited at such areas. The argali tolerate well the captivity and are easily bred at zoos. The animal is protected by environmental organizations and is indicated in the International Red List as a vulnerable species.