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Nguni Cattle

The Nguni cattle breed is indigenous to Southern Africa. A hybrid of indigenous and Indian cattle they were introduced by the black African tribes to Southern Africa from the north of the continent. Through natural selection and environmental interaction the cattle evolved into the hardy breed we know today as the Nguni.

Nguni cattle has long been the mainstay of traditional Zulu culture and with their variously patterned and multicoloured hides everywhere in demand. For hundreds of years, the well-being of the herds and the Zulu people have been so closely connected that cattle have become a part of the people's spiritual and aesthetic lives.

There are two species of cattle in the world: Bos taurus, or European cattle, are the more familiar brown-and-black breeds such as Jersey and Holstein. Bos indicus, on the other hand, are found mainly in India and Africa, and include more unusual creatures such as Zebu and Sanga cattle. They are characterised by their enormous horns and magnificent hides.

The Nguni is a principal form of Sanga cattle, which originated as hybrids of Zebu and humpless cattle in East Africa. Protein analyses have shown that they are a combination of Zebu (Bos indicus) and Bos taurus, the European and indigenous African species.

They are characterized by low cervico-thoracic humps in front of the front legs and they present a variety of horn shapes. They are not large cattle with bulls weighing 500 - 700kg and cows weighing 320 - 440kg. The cattle are heat and light tolerant and have thick pigmented skins covered with fine short hair of different mixtures of colour (black, white, red, brown, cream and dun).

They have long productive lives, cows will produce 10 or more calves calving regularly. They develop excellent resistance to ticks and immunity to tick borne diseases. Disease incidence and mortality are low. They are excellent foragers and will graze and browse on steep slopes and in thick bush alike.

Only in 1932 did the late Professor HH Curzon make an effort to breed true to type Nguni cattle. Another milestone in the recognition of the Nguni breed was the Bonsma report of 1950 on indigenous cattle in South Africa where the appreciation of this adapted breed was highlighted. Final recognition came in 1985 when the Nguni Cattle Breeders Society was accepted as a member of the South African Stud Book and Livestock Improvement Association.

Today there are some 140 registered breeders.

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Nguni Cattle Breeders Association





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