Species / International Ovis
Dwarf blue sheep have a limited distribution in the upper Yangtze River Gorge near Leh and Drupalong and south of Batang in western Sichuan and southeastern Tibet. They are usually found at elevations of 8,500-10,500 feet, and are cut off from the blue sheep populations of the upper grassy altitudes of the same regions by a thick, scrubby forest 3-4 miles across and covering 1,500 feet of elevation.
Much smaller than other forms of blue sheep, with a drab coloration and very small horns. Shoulder heights are 20-31 inches, and weights of 55-85 pounds. The summer coat is a dull brownish-gray, with the head, neck, dorsal area, tail tip, and front of legs darker. Under parts, inside of legs, and inside of ears are whitish, and there is a light ring around the eyes. The winter coat is bright silver-gray, with the colors more pronounced, and there is a black stripe separating flanks from belly. The horns are much smaller than in other blue sheep.
Western science knows relatively little about this isolated animal. However, in 1988, a Chinese scientific expedition conducted a field study and determined it should be ranked as a distinct species, rather than a subspecies. Locals believe July is the best time to hunt these animals, because then the grass is better at lower elevations (8,200 feet) and the blue sheep descend to feed on it.