The argali (Ovis ammon) is a wild mountain sheep with the most spectacular horns of all the world’s sheep. They are native to the highlands of central Asia, and currently, 9 subspecies of argali are recognized.
- Altai argali, O. a. ammon
- Karaganda argali, O. a. collium
- Gobi argali, O. a. darwini
- Tibetan argali, O. a. hodgsoni
- North China argali, O. a. jubata
- Tian Shan argali, O. a. karelini
- Kara Tau argali, O. a. nigrimontana
- Marco Polo argali, O. a. polii
- Severtzov argali, O. a. severtzovi
Currently, the only place that you can hunt Altai argali is in Mongolia, and fewer than ten tags are issued each year. This is a highly coveted species, and if you are interested, be ready to book years in advance.The Altai Argali (Ovis ammon ammon), is the most impressive sheep in the world. Found in Asia, they have massive horns with the “argali flair”, ranging from 52 to over 60 inches long, with 18 to 21 inch bases. Trophy quality has steadily improved over the years due to management and conservation efforts from hunting groups.
The Gobi Argali (Ovis ammon darwin), is found, as the name suggests in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, and small herds are also found in northern China. They look very similar to the Altai Argali, but their headgear is just a bit smaller. Horns normally measure from 45 to over 50 inches, with 16 to 19 inch bases. Similar to the Altai subspecies, both their population and trophy quality has been improving over the years due to the efforts from hunting groups. Their population has almost doubled in fact.
Central Mongolia produces larger Gobi rams than the ones that come from the Gobi Desert, so trophies from that area are recorded separately as Hangai Argali. Their horns can grow to 57 inches with 18 to 20 inch bases, making them similar to some Altai Argalis.
Tian Shan Argali
The Tian Shan mountain range, from southeastern Kazakhstan and eastern Kyrgyzstan eastward to about Urumqi in Xinjiang. Boundaries with the Marco Polo argali to the south and west are unclear. They are distributed across the northern flanks of the Tien Shan mountain range in northeast Kyrgyzstan and southeast Kazakhstan. You can spot the Argali easiest in winter time when the animals come down from the high mountains to search for food.
Most hunters refer to the Tian Shan as Marco Polo sheep. The summer coat is light, speckled brown, with the face, chest, underparts, rump patch and legs white. In winter, the upper parts are somewhat darker brown and there is a full white neck ruff extending to the brisket. The winter hair is much longer, making the animal appear larger and heavier than it is. The long, slender horns are HUGE, forming 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 open spirals, and triangular in cross section. The longest sheep horn ever recorded is 75 inches, or 190.5 cm
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