Shapu / Urial

The Himalayas are home to a diverse array of animal species, many of which are unique to the region. Some of the iconic animals found in the Himalayas include the Bengal tiger, snow leopard, Himalayan black bear, and red panda. The region is also home to several species of wild goats, such as the markhor and the ibex, which are adapted to living in steep, mountainous terrain. Additionally, the Himalayas are an important breeding ground for migratory birds, with over 900 species recorded in the region. The biodiversity of the Himalayas is under threat from habitat loss, poaching, and climate change, among other factors. Conservation efforts are underway to protect the region’s animal biodiversity, but much more needs to be done to ensure the long-term survival of these species.

SL NOCharacteristicsDescription
1Common NameShapu or Ladakhi Urial
2Scientific NameOvis orientalis vignei
3Length110 to 140 cm (43 to 55 in)
4ColorLight brown to dark grey, with a white underbelly and black markings on their legs and face
5Height / Girth70 to 80 cm (28 to 31 in) at the shoulder
6Tail length10 to 14 cm (4 to 5.5 in)
7Height till shoulder70 to 80 cm (28 to 31 in)
8Average weightMale: 60 to 75 kg (130 to 165 lb), Female: 30 to 45 kg (66 to 99 lb)
9Food habitsHerbivorous, mainly feeding on grasses, leaves, and shrubs
10HabitatNative to the high-altitude regions of Ladakh in India and parts of Tibet and China, found in rocky and mountainous terrain
11Interesting factsShapu are highly adapted to life in the mountains and can withstand extreme temperatures and altitudes. Males have large, curled horns that can grow up to 1 meter (3.3 ft) in length, which they use for defense and dominance displays during the mating season. They are also social animals, living in herds of up to 30 individuals.


Shapu, also known as Ladakhi Urial, is a subspecies of Urial sheep that inhabits the Ladakh region of India. The Shapu has a light brown coat that turns darker during winter. The belly, legs, and chest are usually white, while the neck and head have black markings. The males of the species can weigh up to 60 kg (132 lbs) and have a shoulder height of around 75 cm (30 inches). The females are smaller and weigh around 30 kg (66 lbs) with a shoulder height of around 60 cm (24 inches). Both males and females have horns, but the males’ horns are much larger and more impressive. They are curved backward and can grow up to 80 cm (31 inches) in length. Shapu is a social animal that usually lives in small groups consisting of females and young ones, led by a dominant male. During the mating season, males compete for dominance by headbutting each other, and the winner gets to mate with the females. Shapu is adapted to live in high altitudes and rugged mountain terrain. Their strong legs and hooves allow them to climb steep rocky slopes with ease, and their thick coats protect them from the cold winters.

Food Habits

Shapu is a herbivore and feeds on grasses, leaves, and shrubs. They graze during the day and rest in rocky crevices or under overhanging rocks during the night. They also require access to water sources, which are scarce in their high-altitude habitat.


Shapu is adapted to live in rugged mountain terrain and can be found at elevations ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 metres (9,800 to 16,400 feet) above sea level. They live in small herds consisting of females and young ones, led by a dominant male.

Shapu is found primarily in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh. They are also found in other parts of the Himalayas, including Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan.

Vulnerable Species

The Shapu, also known as the Ladakhi Urial, is listed as a “Near Threatened” species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In India, it is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which provides the highest level of legal protection to any wildlife species.

According to estimates, there are around 7,000-9,000 Shapu individuals remaining in India, with the majority found in Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh. The primary threats to Shapu include habitat loss due to grazing, infrastructure development, and mining activities. Additionally, they are hunted for their meat and horns, which are used in traditional medicine and as decorative items. Climate change is also a potential threat, as it could impact their habitat and food sources. The Indian government has taken several measures to protect Shapu, including the establishment of protected areas, such as the Hemis National Park in Ladakh. Hunting of Shapu is strictly prohibited, and penalties for poaching are severe. Additionally, the government has launched awareness campaigns and community-based conservation programs to reduce human-wildlife conflict and promote sustainable use of resources.

Protected Areas

Hemis National Park is located in Ladakh and is the largest national park in India. It is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including Shapu, snow leopards, ibex, and Tibetan wolves. Shapu is primarily found in the Rumbak and Markha valleys of the park. Pin Valley National Park is located in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh and is known for its high-altitude wildlife. It is home to a significant population of Shapu, along with snow leopards, ibex, and blue sheep.

The Great Himalayan National Park is located in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh and is known for its rich biodiversity. It is home to several endangered species, including Shapu, snow leopards, musk deer, and Himalayan tahr. The Changthang Cold Desert Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Ladakh and is known for its unique landscape and wildlife. It is home to Shapu, Tibetan wild ass, and several bird species.

Steps needed to protect the Himalayan wild animals 

Protecting the Himalayan wildlife is crucial to ensure the survival of several endangered and unique species found in the region. Here are some steps that can be taken to protect Himalayan wild animals:

Establish protected areas: Setting up protected areas like national parks, wildlife reserves, and sanctuaries can provide safe havens for wild animals to thrive.

Enforce strict laws and regulations: The government can implement and enforce laws and regulations that prohibit poaching, hunting, and illegal trade of wildlife products. Such laws can act as a deterrent and help reduce the number of wildlife crimes.

Increase community involvement: Engaging local communities in wildlife conservation efforts can help to build a sense of ownership and responsibility towards protecting the wildlife. This can include education programs, awareness campaigns, and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

Promote responsible tourism: Responsible tourism can generate income for local communities and promote conservation efforts. However, it is important to ensure that tourism activities do not harm the natural habitat of wild animals.

Address climate change: Climate change is a significant threat to the Himalayan wildlife. Addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable practices can help to protect the wildlife and their habitats.

Collaborate with international organizations: Collaborating with international organizations can provide additional resources and expertise to help protect the Himalayan wildlife. This can include support for research, conservation programs, and policy advocacy.

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