Ovis orientalis ophion Blyth, 1841 ♂
Syn. : Ovis gmelini ophion Blyth, 1841
Common names: Cypriot mouflon [En], Mouflon de Chypre, Mouflon chypriote [Fr], Cypriotische moeflon [Nl], Zyprischen Mufflon [De], Αγρινό [Gr], Kıbrıs muflon [Tu]
Stavros tis Psokas (Σταυρός της Ψώκας), PAPHOS (Πάφος, Baf) ● Cyprus
Description: According to historical records, it has been present in the Cyprus island for at least 10,000 years and is of Asiatic origin. They may have been imported from Asia to Cyprus by the Neolithic man.
It is the largest terrestrial mammal found in Cyprus. Its height is around one metre. It is smaller than other wild sheep, the male weighing 35-45 kg and the female 25-35 kg; the males bear supracervical horns in the shape of a sickle while the females are hornless. The length of the horns of the mature animals is between 55 and 60 centimetres.
It has a thick and plentiful hide which in winter is of a light brown colour, with light grey on the back and an elongated black patch round the neck. In summer its hide becomes short and smooth, with a uniform brown colour and white underparts.
Biology: The mouflons are very shy and agile, they move very fast on the steep slopes of the Paphos forest and are very difficult to approach, especially when they are frightened.
Its seasonal activity pattern is considerably variable. During summer, the animal is active in early morning and late afternoon, whereas in winter is active over the entire day.
During the summer, the mouflons live on the high mountains of the Paphos forest, like the Tripilos region. The Tripilos mountains stand at 1.362 metres and overlook the Cedar valley. In winter, when the high peaks of the mountains are covered with snow, the mouflons come down to lower pastures in search of food. At times, when there is not enough food in the forest, the mouflons venture to move to the edge of the forest to search for food.
The same can happen during summer when available food is very scarse in the forest. During this season mouflon causes considerable damages to various agricultural crops.
In autumn, during the mating period, the mouflons form herds in groups of 10-20 male and female animals. In spring, however, when the delivery time is approaching, the herds are divided into small groups of two to three animals, or even one in the case of male mouflons which roam about alone.
The female mouflons give birth to either one and rarely two young ones in April or May. The newborns are very lively from the moment they are born so that they can face the many dangers that threaten them.
The mouflon feeds on various kinds of wild growth that flourish in the shady valleys of the forest. In summer, when the wild growth tends to wither, the mouflons wander out of the forest to look for food. It is during this time that the passers-by are able to see the mouflons in forests with low vegetation or in fields that are close to the forests.
Habitat: Along with the mouflon of Sardinia and Corsica (Ovis gmelini mussimon) it is the only forest dweller among the Caprinae.
Mouflon inhabit the Paphos forest, a mountainous area of 620,000 ha in the North-western part of the Troodos mountain range.
The natural vegetation of the Paphos forest consists mainly of pine trees (Pinus brutia), cedar trees (Cedrus brevifolia), golden oaks (Quercus alnifolia), Strawberry trees (Arbutus andrachne), etc.
Distribution: Endemic subspecies to Cyprus.
Protection: The current mouflon population of Cyprus is estimated to be approximately 3,000 animals.
Under Cypriot legislation, it is a strictly protected species and has been included in Annex II/IV of 92/43 EU Habitats Directive, as a European priority species. It is also referred as endangered under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature 1996 Red list.
Payne S., 1968. The origin of domestic sheep and goats: a reconsideration in the light of the fossil evidence. Proc. Prehist. Soc. 34, 368-384.
Shackleton D.M. & Lovari S., 1996. Conservation of Eurasian wild sheep: an overview. In: Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Mediterranean Mouflon, Nicosia, Cyprus, pp.: 20-36.
Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment, Forestry Department, The Cyprus Mouflon, 2008