The Urial is a medium-sized wild sheep and as such is considered a member of the goat antelope subfamily. The Urial is also known as Shapo or Arkhar. Noticeable features are the reddish-brown long fur that will fade during the winter. Males are characterized by a black ruff stretching from the neck to the chest and significantly larger horns. It occurs in western central Asia.
Urial males have large horns, curling outwards from the top of the head turning in to end somewhere behind the head, females have shorter, compressed horns. The horns of the males may grow to be up 1 meter. The average shoulder height of an adult male Urial lies somewhere between 80 and 90 centimeters.
The Urial is found in western central Asia from vom northeastern Iran and western Kazakhstan to Beluchistan and Ladakh. To the east they are displaced by the bigger Argalis and to the southwest by the Asiatic Mouflons. The habitat consists of grassy slopes below the timberline. Urials rarely move to the rocky areas of the mountains. For example in northern Iran they produce hybrids with asiatic mouflon under natural conditions. The Urial feed mainly on grass but are able to eat leaves of trees and bushes if needed.
The conservation status of the Urial is threatened as their habitat is perfectly suitable for human development; the Urial population has been recovering the last few years though.
The scientific classification of the Urial is disputed , but the Urial can be said to fit into the taxonomic classifications of Ovis vignei, Ovis orientalis and/or Ovis ammon. Subspecies of O. vignei include:
- Turkmenian sheep or Afghan Urial (Ovis vignei cycloceros): Southern Turkmenistan, eastern Iran, Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, Kashmir. The Transcaspian Urial (Ovis ammon arkal) from Ustjurt-Plateau (Turkmenistan, Usbekistan, Nordiran) und western Kazakhstan as well as the Baluchistan Urial or Blanford Urial (O. v. blanfordi) from Beluchistan are often included in this subspecies.
- Bukhara sheep (Ovis vignei bochariensis): Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Mountains arround Amu Darya
- Punjab Urial (Ovis vignei punjabiensis): Punjab
- Ladakh Urial (Ovis vignei vignei): Ladakh
- Nowak R. M.: Walker´s Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, London, 1999.
- Lingen, H.: Großes Lexikon der Tiere. Lingen Verlag, Köln.
- Prater, S. H.: The Book of Indian Animals, Oxford University Press, 1971.
- Menon, V.: A Field Guide to Indian Mammals, Dorling Kindersley, India, 2003
- CITES Instruktion für den grenztierärztlichen Dienst
- Proposal about subspecies of Urial