Species / International Ovis

Bukharan Urial

Ovis vignei bochariensis


Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan

"Heptner (1966) limited the distribution range of the Bukharan urial to the mountains north of the Amu-Darya River in Turkmenistan extending into Uzbekistan and Tajikistan; he excluded the occurrence of this subspecies in Afghanistan and Iran. Clark (1978) writes about the distribution of O v bocnarensis:

“ ... ranges in the upper Zarafshan [Zeravshan] drainage of the Hissar [Gissar] Mountains to the east of Bukhara, southward to the west of the Poli country of the Russian Pamirs, then westwards along the Oxus [Pyanj] on the outlying spurs of the Hissar [Gissar] Mountain …”

The Tajik Red Data Book (Abdusalyamov 1988) mentions the core distribution zones for Bukharan urial as the Pyanj Karatau Range (especially between towns of Nizhniy Pyanj and Parkhor), Surkhkuh (north of the Nurek Reservoir) and the Hazratishoh ranges. Michel (2008) believes that this urial is also present in the Tuyuntau, Aktau, Aruktau, Gardaniushti and Sarsarak mountain ranges. Abdusalyamov (1988) also mentioned the Kushvariston, Sanglok, as well as Turkestan ranges - which Michel (2008, pers. comm) considers as likely confusion with O a. severtzovi - and the Alay and Ishkashim ranges which constitutes potentially a confusion with O v. cycloceros. There are a number of other authors mentioned by Michel (2008) who all indicated somewhat contradicting distribution ranges.

The Bukharan urial used to be rather widespread, with low densities in southwestern Tajikistan (Weinberg et al. 2002), but today populations are fragmented and severely threatened by poaching. The Pyanj Karatau and Khozratisho ranges which extend to the Pyanj River, seem to be the areas with some Bukharan urial populations in Tajikistan. The subspecies also occurs in the Hazratishoh and Davraz mountain ranges along and across the Afghanistan border, in the proximity of Dashti-jum Zapovednik and possibly also further north (Weinberg et al. 2002, Michel 2008). The distribution range spills over into Afghanistan in Shahr-e Buzurg District, Badakhshan Province (Moheb 2012, pers comm). Michel et al. (2009) report Bukharan urial in the lower mountains of Khatlon district (Surkhkuh Range, Babatagh and Aktau Ranges west of Kofarnihon River, in the Pyanj Karatau Range and in the Hazratishoh Range), which coincides with observations of Weinberg et al. (2002).

Weinberg (2010, pers. comm) assumes that no bocharensis occur west of the Kugi-tang Mountains. The Turkmen slope of the Kugitang harbors a small population of Bukharan urial. Weinberg et al. (2002) could not find urial on the eastern (Uzbek) slope, where Bukharan urial appear to occur only sporadically, migrating to and from Turkmenistan. In the northern part of the Kugitang (Baisuntau), Weinberg et. al. encountered some isolated groups of Bukharan urial and heard anecdotal reports that urial may still be present in the Babatagh Range, which straddles the border between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan."*


"The Bukharan urial is smaller than both the Ladakh and Afghan urials and seems to be lighter of pelage color. The pelage coloration of the Bukharan urial is a foxy cinnamon red-brown; there is no spot on the flanks. Rams show a sort of a whitish beard on the throat and the back part of the lower jaw. Brisket and neck show a strongly developed neck ruff (Heptner 1966), white below the chin, turning to gray or blackish further down on the brisket. Fedosenko (2002 seen in Michel 2008) stated that the ruff in bocnarensis reaches a length of 20 cm (7 1/8 in) and more lightly colored in its upper parts and brown or black in the lower part (young males). Some males have quite a prominent black throat area (Groves, seen in Michel 2008), but there are considerable variations between different parts of the range area inside Tajikistan.

A weakly developed saddle patch is usually present. The caudal patch is creamy white and extends on to the thighs A darkish flank stripe separates the upper parts from the slightly lighter underparts. The legs are creamy white to light brown.

The horns have less of a lateral angle. Heptner (1966) describes the horns as usually perverted (bend in one or nearly one plane), although homonymous horn forms do occur. Weinberg (2010, pers. comm) states that older rams usually show homonymous horns. The shape of the horns varies greatly with age (Nasonov 1923, pp 57 to 59 in Harper 1945). The outer horn edge is not sharp and the corrugations are weakly developed. The horns of the Bukharan urial are apparently shorter than those of the Ladakh and Afghan types. Ewes always carry weakly developed horns.

The median horn length of 39 bocharensis specimens is 70.5 cm (27 6/8 in) with a median girth of 24.8 cm (9 6/8 in). Most of these specimens were collected between 1990 and 2005. The two specimens with the longest horns of over 95 cm (37 5/8 in) come from rams collected in the Kugitang range in southeastern Turkmenistan in the mid-1990s. We have only two spread measurements for bocharensis with the widest spread recorded measured 28.3 cm (11 1/8 in)."*


"In 2002 Weinberg stated that legal trophy hunting of Bukharan urial in Uzbekistan was stopped. The same author also stated that it was apparent during their visit to Tajikistan that trophy hunts were undertaken in all the areas of Tajikistan which they described in their paper, including in nature reserves and sanctuaries, although trophy hunting was not seen as threat. According to local hunters, hundreds of Bukharan urial were killed for commercial meat supply during Soviet times. This still influences the perception of the urial as free meat by many locals.

The main problems are seen as habitat destruction and local poaching. Urial habitat is intensively used for livestock grazing and agriculture in many areas. In southeastern Uzbekistan, some of the isolated Bukharan urial populations may be threatened by local extirpation."*


*Source: CIC Caprinae Atlas of the World, volume 1 by authors Gerhard R. Damm and Nicolas Franco; p.257

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