Now that I have your attention (and hopefully a few more hits than I usually get ), this post is about cattle. Nguni cattle to be exact. Everyone else who arrived here for other reasons is going to be sorely disappointed.
Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated with animals found in very rural areas of our country. From the little fat black pigs and the climbing goats in the Transkei to the brown jackal-like dogs in the rural townships. Also the poor scrawny coal-cart donkeys and the very strange-looking cattle.
As I got older I realised the cattle were the most intriguing. I don’t think I have even seen two that look the same. The variation is not only in their beautiful hides and colours but also in their horns, ears and body shape. These are the Nguni cattle.
Yesterday we stopped to photograph a few on a trip to Mariepskop mountain. I was with my friends Sue and Rose, and while Sue patiently drove forwards and backwards for me to get good photos, Rose made wise-crack cow jokes from the back seat. I haven’t laughed so much in a long time.
The Nguni is widely acknowledged to be an outstanding beef breed for optimal production under our harsh African conditions.
These indigenous Nguni cattle, long the mainstay of traditional Zulu culture, are possibly some of the most beautiful cattle in the world, with their variously patterned and multicoloured hides in demand everywhere.
The Nguni is a calm, but alert breed of cattle and has excellent mothering qualities. They have exceptional resistance to ticks and tick-borne diseases and require the minimum amount of handling. Nguni cope well in sourveld regions, and also graze in mountainous areas. They forage from Acacia trees and Combretum species of trees even in the presence of ample grass. This hardy animal makes for an excellent choice in an arduous environment, but will excel even more in more favourable conditions
The ancestors of Nguni cattle were brought by the Xhosa, Zulu and Swazi people, during their migration to South Africa between 600 and 700 AD. Since then, these animals have played an important social and economic role in the development of these societies and are used as a bride’s dowry. The number of animals held by a village or individual determined much of their importance to the rest of the world. King Shaka of the Zulus understood this cultural and economic importance and seized control of the Nguni herds on his dominions. Shaka also bred the Ngunis according to colour patterns in order to produce skins for the several regiments of his army, henceforward recognized by them. His elite personal guard was recognised by pure white, from animals of the royal herd, the inyonikayiphumuli.
Here are some pictures I took yesterday to show you the huge variation in shape, size and horn structure.
Down and straight (note how one horn has had to be trimmed)
Up (with tiny ears)
Small horns with HUGE ears
Beautiful patterns on their hides
Do all cows feet look like this? I’m not sure…..
Quite a strange-looking (yet beautiful) bunch aren’t they?