United Horned Hair Sheep Association, Inc.
WHERE DID MOUFLON SHEEP ORIGINATE?
Domestic sheep have disputed origins and as well as ancestral scientific classifications for the subspecies (Hiendleder, Mainz, Plante, & Lewalski, 1998; Sanna, Barbato, Hadjisterkotis, Cossu, et al., 2015). This can
make tracing the ancestors of modern sheep confusing at times. However, research indicates that Mouflon Sheep are one of the original sheep from which breeds of domestic sheep descended (Toweill & Geist,
1999). Specifically, the Asiatic Mouflon (Ovis gmelini, Ovis orientalis, O.orientalis anatolica, O. orientalis gmelini) is currently viewed as one of the original sheep contributing to today's domestic sheep Ovis aries
(Hiendleder, Kaupe, Wassmth, & Janke, 2002).
For a long time, European Mouflon (Ovis musimom) sheep were thought to be the ancestors to domestic sheep breeds (Bunch & Nguyen, 1982; Sanna, Barbato Hadjisterkotis Cossu, et al., 2015). Today's foray
into sheep origins have produced two theories as scientific classifications have been revised and genetic research is utilized. One thought is that European Mouflon descended from one of the original sheep (Asiatic
Mouflon), were domesticated, brought to the Mediterranean region and ultimately become feral (Dohner, 2001). In other words, European Mouflon sheep are "feral domestic sheep" Toweill & Geist, 1999, p. 9). A
second possibility is that European Mouflon are from flocks of primitive sheep which spread out on their own and became specialized into subspecies (Mungall & Sheffield, 1994).
WHAT IS THE SCIENTIFIC TAXONOMY?
Classifications differ. Accepted literature include the following for European Mouflon: Ovis musimon, Ovis orientalis musimom, Ovis aries musimom, and even Ovis aries (EOL, n. d.; Sanna, Barbato, Hadjisterkotis,
Cossu, et al., 2015).
WHERE DO EUROPEAN MOUFLONS LIVE?
Mouflon Sheep are found running wild or feral in locations throughout the world but have dwindling populations in some places. European Mouflon exist on Corsica and Sardinia. Eventually, they were sent to
various zoos and parks in the European continent and the United States (Mungall & Sheffield, 1994; Dohner, 2001). Here in the United States, zoos eventually released some European Mouflons to private owners
in the mid 1900's.
DO EUROPEAN MOUFLON HAVE TO BE SHEARED?
European Mouflon sheep are a shedding sheep, shedding their thicker winter coat in the springtime which seems to be more like the original sheep. Research indicates the need for shearing sheep (because the
“wool” sheep do not naturally shed their wool) is a result of selective breeding through the years by breeders to increase and improve wool for use in fabrics (Dohner, 2001).
EUROPEAN MOUFLONS AS PARENTS TO NEW AMERICAN BREEDS:
Not only are European Mouflon sheep a wonderful breed worthy of preservation and study, they are ancestors to sheep breeds in the United States. European Mouflon, along with wool sheep breeds (Rambouillet,
Navajo Churro, Jacob, Horned Merino) as well as the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep, were utilized in the 1900's to create new breeds of sheep: American Blackbelly, Black Hawaiian, Corsican, Desert Sand, Painted
Desert, and Texas Dall.
Originally, the European Mouflon and the new sheep breeds were primarily used for "Trophies" due to the rams' beautiful horns. As the popularity of the sheep increases, the focus has become on achieving
recognition for these sheep for other markets such as meat, show, pasture/fenceline clearing, etc., and for simply being unique sheep deserving of recognition as individual breeds.
Bunch, T. D., & Nguyen, T. C. (1982). Blood group comparisons between European mouflon sheep and north American desert bighorn sheep.(Abstract) Journal of Heredity. 73(2). pp. 112-114. Retrieved from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7096977
Dohner, Janet Vorwald. (2001) The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds. Yale University Press: New Haven and London.
EOL (n. d.). Ovis aries, Domestic Sheep. Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved from http://eol.org/pages/311906/overview
Hiendleder, S., Kaupe, B., Wassmuth, R., Janke, A. (2002). Molecular analysis of wild and domestic sheep questions current nomenclature and provides evidence for domestication from two different subspecies. The Royal Society (269)i
pp 893-904. doi:10.1098/rspb.2002.1975
Hiendleder, S., Mainz, K. Plante, Y., & Lewalski, H. (1998). Analysis of mitochondrial DNA indicates that domestic sheep are derived from two different ancestral maternal sources: No evidence for contributions from Urial and Argali sheep. Journal of
Heredity (89). pp. 113-120.
Mungall, E. C. (2007) Exotic Animal Field Guide. Texas A& M University Press, College Station: 2007.
Mungall, E. C. & Sheffield, W. J. (1994) Exotics on the Range: The Texas Example. Texas A&M University Press:College Station 1994. NOTE: this book contains a good bibliography for a starting place to look for more information. Studies on items
such as Mouflon and Rambouillet tail lengths have been conducted.
Sanna, D., Barbato, M., Hadjisterkotis, E., Cossu, P., Decandia, L., Trova, S., Piratru, M., Leoni, G. G., Naitana, S., Francalacci, P., Massala, B., Manca, L, & Mereu, P. (2015). The first mitogenome of the Cyprus mouflon (Ovis gmelini ophion): New
insights into the phylogeny of the Genus Ovis. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0144257. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0144257
Toweill, D. E., & Geist, V. (1999). Wild Sheep of North America. Missoula, MT: Boone and Crockett Club and Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.
|Active Members of UHHSA are permitted to use information on their website to help in ethical and honest promotion and education about the breeds represented.
However, a link to this website should be provided.
Pictures are copyrighted by owners of the sheep pictured and permission will need to be sought to use the pictures.
Diagram is COPYRIGHT, Sara Qualls 2009
Information written by Sara Qualls copyright 2015, 2016.
|HISTORY of the EUROPEAN MOUFLON
|One of the ancestors of
domestic sheep breeds
|TO LEARN MORE click on the links below:
|Descendants of the first
wave of domesticated
sheep which were
brought into Corsica and
Sardinia by humans.
These sheep became
|A subspecies of the
The original sheep
roamed outward and
based upon local
|THEORIES OF THE HISTORY OF
EUROPEAN MOUFLON SHEEP
|A young European