Transcaspian Urial

Basic Information:

Scientific Name: Ovis vignei arkal

Habitat: Transcaspian Urials can be found plateaus, coastal cliffs, and mountainous regions of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.  

Diet: Transcaspian Urials mostly eat grass, shrubs, and – occasionally – grains. 

Size: 3 to 4 feet tall / 3.5 to 5 feet long

Weight: 100 to 200 pounds

Lifespan: About 14 years in the wild. Up to 20 years in human care.

Distribution Map:

I.U.C.N. Conservation Status:

What does this mean?

Vulnerable – a species determined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (I.U.C.N.) to possess a high risk of extinction as a result of rapid population declines of 30 to more than 50 percent over the previous 10 years (or three generations), a current population size of fewer than 1,000 individuals, or other factors.

Our Transcaspian Urials:

Pyari (Female) – Born April 20, 2012

Samina (Female) – Born April 11, 2013

Aankhen (Male) – Born May 10, 2016

About Transcaspian Urials:

Native to western central Asia from Iran to Kazakhstan to Pakistan to northern Inida, the Transcaspian Urial is the modern domestic sheep’s ancestor as well as the oldest line of the Ovis species. Today they are considered vulberable due to their competition with livestock for resources and territory.

Did You Know?!

  • Sheep – like the Transcaspian urial – have great memories and can remember more than 50 individual sheep and people by using a similar part of the brain and neural process that humans use to remember.
  • Sheep – like the Transcaspian urial – can self-medicate when they are ill by eating particular plants that can cure them of various ailments.
  • The Transcaspian urial species is found at lower elevations where there are higher numbers of people and where the urial compete directly with domestic livestock for grazing areas. Urial densities are often naturally low because they live in a hot, dry, habitat with limited food. Living close to human settlements makes the urial vulnerable to being hunted or poached. In some countries, urial are highly prized by trophy hunters and there is pressure for governments to open hunting. Due to increasing habitat loss, urial populations are becoming smaller and more isolated.
  • Male urials that are solitary most of the year will compete with each other during the breeding season – which occurs in autumn – by head butting and jumping (up to 9 feet)! The winner of these competitions will mate with 4 or 5 females, or ewes.
  • The Transcaspian urial is a type of mouflon, or wild sheep. Mouslon were the wild ancestors of today’s domestic sheep (likely domesticated around 10,500 years ago).
  • Both male and female urials grow spiral horns. The male’s horns are larger and can measure more than 2.5 feet in length. 
  • There is a strict dominance hierarchy among rams based on their age and the size of their massive curling horns. The ram with the biggest horns is the leader.
  • The neck ruffs of a male Transcaspian urial can reach lengths of 9 inches.