Ladakh is characterized by its rugged landscape and high altitude locations with scarce natural forests. Yet the wildlife of Ladakh has adapted itself to the extreme temperatures.
Yak or Wild Ox (Ladakhi: dong)
Yak is Ladakh’s largest animal of the Ladakh region. It has long black hair, tinged with gray at the muzzle. During summers, it can be seen grazing in Himalayan valley at heights of over 6,000 meters. It migrates to the lakes, marshes and lower valleys in winter.
The Great Tibetan Sheep (Ladakhi: nyan)
Nyan is the largest wild sheep and is also known as the Big Horned Sheep. Its horns measure up to 145cm and it can be seen at heights above 4,500 meters in northeastern Ladakh.
Urial (Ladakhi : shapu)
Urial is the smallest sheep in the world. Its body is as long as its horns which usually measure up to 99cm. This sheep is mostly found on the grassy mountain slopes. There are only about 500 Urial in Ladakh and the decline in them is because of their vulnerability to hunters.
Bharal or Blue Sheep (Ladakhi: napo)
This brownish-gray colored sheep is a hybrid species of sheep and goats. Its color protects it and when it is motionless, it becomes extremely difficult for hunters to spot them. It is the most commonly found sheep in the Ladakh region and can be found at altitudes higher than 6,000 meters.
Ibex (Ladakhi: skin)
The Ibex or Capra Ibex is also a big attraction for wildlife lovers as it is one of the most beautiful goats. They usually move in herds of 10-16. They have finely curved spiral horns with length up to 147 cm.
Snow Leopard (Ladakhi: shan)
The beautiful Snow Leopard is found in the Himalayan region and is a predator that preys on wild sheep and goats of the region. It is one of Ladakh’s endangered species as it is hunted for its silver grey pelt.
It is one of Ladakh’s most renowned as well as most endangered animals. Also called as Tibetan Antelope, it is hunted for its underbelly wool which is used to make Shahtoosh, an incredibly soft woolen fiber. The government has banned Shahtoosh trading to protect this highly endangered species.
Ladakh is also home to many bird species like Fire-capped Tit, White-tailed Ruby throat, Long billed Bush Warbler, Little Fork tail, Wall creeper, Brown Dipper, Golden Eagle, Himalayan Snow cock and Rock Bunting.