URIAL SHEEP - The Hottest New exotic!
(Transcaspian Urial, Ladakh Urial (aka: Iranian Red Sheep), and Afghan Urial)
The Transcaspian Ural is the ancestor of all the Urials, and undoubtedly the most handsome. The Urial sheep stands tall at the shoulder with wide flaring heart shaped horns curl deep down where they can reach 40 inches with one curl! They are a true wild sheep from Asia, and are just a beautiful as our Wild North American sheep!
They are wild and athletic. The Urial sheep is the largest of the wild exotic sheep to be found on hunting ranches, twice the size of a Corsican or Mouflon ram, on par with the body size of a Dall or Stone sheep, and they are super desirable.
If you were to travel to Iran and hunt a free range Transcaspian Urial Ram you would spend $22,000-$30,000 and that's the just the trophy fee! You still need to travel costs, government fees, gratuities, licences, Preparatory taxidermy work, and ship your trophy home. Then there is the whole black market thing going on in Iran now, plus the fact that you are traveling to the middle east country . . . need I say more.
The first imports of Urial sheep came to the San Diego zoo a decade ago. Only now are they becoming available to hunters in significant numbers.
HUNTING URIAL RAMS
My experience with Urial sheep on hunt ranches is their number one defense after they detect danger is to run very fast. They have long legs, like our wild sheep here and are made for running! They are much more athletic than the normal exotic sheep. I have not seen them with the innate intelligence like an Aoudad however to hide like they do on our ranch, if the Urial sees us, then they just run, just like a Whitetail Deer!
ORIGINAL URIAL IMPORTS ARE HYBRIDS
There are naturally occurring hybrids in almost all types of wild sheep. There are six subspecies of Urials, and only three in North America that I am aware of.
The Transcaspian Urials border the red sheep on one side and the argali sheep on the other side. Yes, they interbreed on both sides. They call these intersecting areas "transition zones". The original imports of Urial sheep was done by the San Diego Zoo and their sheep came from a transition zone in North Eastern Iran between the Transcaspian Urials and the Ladakh Urial, so the first imports were a mix of both types of Urials. So if someone tells you they have "Pure Transcaspian Sheep" they are not being 100% truthful, as all Urials in North America came from this original Group. If you ever see photos of the Transcaspian Sheep in the San Diego Zoo, you will see some of them with heavy Back Manes on the bottom just like Afghan Urial. Photos of wild TCU from Iran have virtually no black in their manes, except maybe a bit at the armpits and along sides separating the red body color from the white belly.
The biggest difference is just the coat color between a Transcaspian, Ladakh Urial and the Afghan Urial. So if the Transcaspian Urial genes exist, with dedication and selective breeding over the last decade, some Ranchers and sheep breeders have only been breeding and choosing the selective traits for that species, and are breeding Transcaspian Urials that LOOK exactly like they are pure, and when this is properly done, they pretty much are pure for all intended purposes.
There are six individual subspecies of Urial sheep: