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Bharal, Himalayan blue sheep
Click on the pictures above for a larger view of the photographs
Body Length: 115-165 cm / 3.8-5.5 ft.
Shoulder Height: 75-90 cm / 2.5-3 ft.
Tail Length: 10-20 cm / 4-8 in.
Weight: 35-75 kg / 77-165 lb.
The short, dense coat is slate grey in colour, sometimes with a bluish sheen. The underparts and backs of the legs are white, while the chest and fronts of the legs are black. Separating the grey back and white belly is a charcoal coloured stripe. The ears are small, and the bridge of the nose is dark. The horns are found in both sexes, and are ridged on the upper surface. In males, they grow upwards, then turn sideways and curve backwards, looking somewhat like an upside-down moustache. They may grow to a length of 80 cm / 32 in. In females, the horns are much shorter and straighter, growing up to 20 cm / 8 inches long.
Ontogeny and Reproduction
Gestation Period: 160 days.
Young per Birth: 1
Weaning: After 6 months.
Sexual Maturity: At 1.5 years, although males do not reach their full potential before age 7.
Life span: 12-15 years.
Mating occurs between October and January, with the young being born from May to July.
Ecology and Behavior
Bharal are active throughout the day, alternating between feeding and resting on the grassy mountain slopes. Due to their excellent camouflage and the absence of cover in their environment, bharal remain motionless when approached. Once they have been noticed, however, they scamper up to the precipitous cliffs, where they once again freeze, 'melting' into the rock face. Population densities in Nepal were found to be 0.9-2.7 animals per square kilometer, increasing to a maximum of 10 animals per square kilometer in the winter, as herds congregate in valleys.
Family group: Solitary or in small groups of less than 20 animals which consist of almost entirely one sex.
Diet: Grasses, lichens, hardy herbaceous plants, mosses.
Main Predators: Snow leopard, leopard, mountain fax, tawny eagle.
Montane regions in the Himalayas and in the Sichuan region of China at 3000-5550 m / 10,000-18,500 ft.
Range Map (Compiled from Shackleton, 1997)
The bharal is considered a low risk, near threatened species by the IUCN (1996). Both P. n. nayaur and P. n. szechuanensis are also classified as low risk, near threatened subspecies.
Bharal is a Hindi name, while "blue sheep" is a reference to the bluish sheen in the coat. Pseudes (Greek) false; ois (Greek) a sheep: referring to the absence of facial glands and the character of the tail which makes the bharal look more like a goat than a sheep. Nayaur is a native name for this wild sheep, probably from the Nepali word nahur.
Haas, G. 1990. Blue sheep (Genus Pseudois). In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. Edited by S. P. Parker. New York: McGraw-Hill. Volume 5, pp. 540-541.
Nowak, R. M. [editor]. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World (Fifth Edition). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Shackleton, D. M. [Editor] and the IUCN/SSC Caprinae Specialist Group. 1997. Wild Sheep and Goats and their Relatives. Status Survey and Action Plan for Caprinae. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder [editors]. 1993. Mammal Species of the World (Second Edition). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press. Available online at http://nmnhwww.si.edu/msw/
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© Brent Huffman, www.ultimateungulate.com