Field judging an Aoudad is not as easy as sizing-up a Blackbuck or Axis. Although, there are lots of theories on how to best field judge these exotics like counting curls, using ears to measure horn length and body size and coat color, we’re going to focus on the “poor man’s Bighorn.”
The Aoudad is a fascinating, tough and smart animal. Also called the Barbary sheep, they are native to Northern Africa, but have been introduced as an exotic species in the US, Spain, Mexico and other countries. They are super agile, love rough terrain, have amazing eyesight and are a brown/reddish color that helps them blend in with their landscape. Both females and males have horns, but the males body size and horn length can be almost double that of a female.
With declining numbers in Africa and listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, Aoudad in the United States are thriving. It is estimated that in Texas alone, they have increased in numbers by an estimated 1,800 percent since 1963 to more than 25,000 head.
This is one of the many reasons the Exotic Wildlife Association’s mission is so important. By encouraging and expanding the conservation of native and non-native species, they are the ones making sure exotics, like Aoudad, continue to thrive.
So, you’re on an Aoudad hunt, out on public land or one of our members’ beautiful ranches. How do you know if an Aoudad is actually a big one? Grab your binos and glass over these three tips when field judging Aoudad:
- It’s always easiest to judge a ram’s size when he is in a herd. The largest, most dominant ram will stick out like a sore thumb. He’ll have a large body and be more muscular than the others. The older and more dominant rams have large “blocky” heads and will develop wrinkles on their snouts. Sizing up a lone ram is much trickier, which brings us to points #2 and #3.
- It’s not always about the chaps. The chaps are the long trusses of hair on an Aoudad’s chest and legs. Don’t assume that the largest ram also has the longest chaps. Young rams will never have long chaps, and while mature rams can have short chaps, they most likely will have a long beard and chaps that almost look like a continuous skirt.
- Take note of the shape of the horns. Rams roll around in “dust beds” and depending on the type of landscape, some are more prone to wear down their tips. Generally, a ram with wide horns and less curl will broome down his horns more than a ram with a tighter curl. For example, a 31” ram with a tight curl may have scars on his shoulders, making you assume he must have huge horns. He could be standing next to a 33” ram, that doesn’t have because of a wider horn shape.