The argali is found in the mountains of central Asia and said to be the largest of all wild sheep. Currently, there are nine different subspecies recognized, all of which are considered vulnerable. Adults range from 4 to 6.6 feet in body length, 3 to 4 feet high at the shoulder, and they can weigh between 130 and 350 lb. Coloration varies from a light yellow to a darker gray-brown, with white hairs being interspersed in some cases (especially in older individuals). Their faces are noticeably lighter in color. Males have a whitish neck ruff and a dorsal crest, and they possess two large corkscrew horns that can grow up to 6.3 feet in length. Females have horns, but they are much smaller.
Argali sheep can be found at upper elevations on steep slopes above 1000 meters, and they prefer to occupy the same areas for much of their lives. They are herbivorous creatures and feed mainly on grasses, herbs, and sedges. Argali sheep prefer to remain in single-sex herds with up to 100 individuals. Males and females only come together during breeding season. The males use their large horns to compete for breeding rites with females. Females give birth to one to two young after a gestation period of 150 to 160 days.
This species is threatened throughout its entire range, but some subspecies are in a far worse situation than others. The main threats to the species are habitat loss and the introduction of domestic sheep that compete with the argali sheep for grazing areas. Also, they are hunted for their meat and their horns, which are highly prized by hunters. The species was listed as endangered in 1976, but very few additional conservation measures have been implemented to preserve the species.
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