On the Trail of the Argali, the Great Sheep of Asia
by Jose Pepe Madrazo
2010 Long Beach, 224pp, photos, 8.5x11, hardcover, dj
Ovis means sheep and ammon is a derivative of the word Amun, the ancient god of Egypt who is depicted with the large horns of a ram. Just as the gods of Egypt loomed larger than life, so do the mighty sheep of Central Asia. To the modern-day hunter, these sheep have attained almost mystical status . . . and for good reason. The longest Marco Polo horn on record—75 inches—is longer than any other horn or antler ever recorded.
Pepe Madrazo has devoted his hunting career to the greatest sheep of them all, the Ovis ammon or argali. Pepe began his quest for Marco Polo sheep with a hunt in Tajikistan, and since then he has taken multiple trips in his search for different argali, the kings of all sheep that have the longest horns, the most mass, and live at the highest altitudes. They make any other sheep look, well, small. After his poli hunt, Pepe’s quest became a mission to take Littledale, Kara Tau, Sair, Severtzov, Karaganda, Gansu, Gobi, and Altai argalis. In the far reaches of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, he met furious snowstorms, nonfunctioning planes, and other hard-to-endure conditions in his search for the Ovis ammon.
The book is written as honestly as it happened, and both failure and success are recorded. Sheep hunters know that success is by no means guaranteed when trying to find an old specimen of these elusive, shy, and wary mountain animals. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t, you need to try again. Here the reader will find a series of Central Asian trips for high-elevation hunting that is only for the strongest and fittest. Oxygen is scarce, conditions are difficult, and the shots are sometimes impossible. As Pepe discovered, however, in the end it is all well worth the journey.