If you watch the James Bigley ranches videos, a Texas Realtor, on TikTok, you will see information on western acreage for sale and will have seen stories about exotics living in Texas. Featured stories have included feral pigs and wild Axis deer. Today we want to visit Barbary Sheep, also called Aoudad (awdads), a caprinae or goat-antelope. An example in the west is a curved-horn mountain goat, seen standing on steep terrain in the Rocky Mountains.
The releases of Aoudads were intended to increase big-game hunting. Soon they competed with Big Horned Sheep. In Texas they were introduced in the 1940s and now threaten the population of Big Horned Sheep. Aoudads are hardier, breed rapidly, and run in packs.
According to the Encyclopedia of animals, Aoudads “stand 110 cm (2.46 to 3.61 ft) tall at the shoulder, with a length about 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in), and weigh 30 to 145 kg (66 to 320 lb) . They are sandy-brown, darkening with age, with a slightly lighter underbelly and a darker line along the back. Some shaggy hair is on the throat (extending down to the chest in males) with a sparse mane. Their horns have a triangular cross-section. The horns curve outward, backward, then inward, and can exceed 76 cm (30 in) in length.” The horns are fairly smooth, with slight wrinkles at the base as the animal matures. If you have land with Aoudads on the property, be careful of your feeders. Aoudads will battle the triangle-shaped feeders to get the corn.
The Ecological Threat
Barbary sheep are a threat to mule deer and bighorn sheep because of direct competition for food and habitat resources. Mule deer and Barbary sheep feed on similar vegetation and mule deer risk being outcompeted by the aggressive invasive Barbary sheep. Efforts to reintroduce big horn sheep populations are at risk because of habitat competition. Barbary sheep can be aggressive and territorial, with the ability to climb and evade predators successfully. They also live in packs comprised of mature and immature members allowing a pack size advantage over the native bighorn sheep. Barbary sheep are a threat to wheat farmers, with several observations of the invasive sheep feeding on winter wheat crops. They are not currently considered significant agriculture pests.
Can You Eat the Meat?
Aoudad sheep are a type of wild goat that is found in the dry parts of Texas. The meat from these animals is tough and lean, but it can be quite flavorful if properly prepared. When slow-cooked, the meat becomes tender and delicious.