N'guni Cattle

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Other common names: N'Guni Cattle

The basics:
The N'Guni are the native cattle breed of South Africa. They are descended from Sanga cattle, a breed which began in Ethiopia/Somalia some 3,600 years ago as a cross between imported Asian Zebu cattle Bos indicus (Bos indicus) and native African Bos taurus. N'Guni Cattle exhibit the cervical hump of Bos indicus but have the chromosome patterns of Bos taurus.

With their diapsora, the Kohi peoples of the Central Lakes region of Africa (who were partly nomadic) brought the Sanga cattle with them as they spread south and east and, crossed with local breeds, this made the Sanga ione of the base stocks throughout the African continent. The Kohi settled and by intermarriage with Bantu peoples became the N'Guni peoples. It was they who developed the N'Guni cattle and their heartlands are Swaziland, Zululand and Mozambique. They were imported into Namibia during the 1880s and some o the largest herds on the continent are now to be found there.

The N'Guni is remarkable for its hardiness and its fecundity and because of this, there has been considerable interest in its genetics, particularly in South Africa. The breed also has particularly tough hide that can resist insect bites and there is increasing demand for the bulls across the continent in producing herds that are resistant to tsetse flies (in Nigeria, N'Guni and N'Dole crosses are being evaluated for their resistance both to insect bites and to trypanosomiasis, one of the main ungulate diseases spread by the flies).

The N'Guni cattle also show the typical temperament of all African cattle. They are both gentle and not afraid of people (aggression and a fearful temperament having been selectively removed from the breed centuries ago). This was originally a draft animal (it is used thus in many villages even today) but its good musculature and lean carcass has also made it an increasingly popular beef breed. The N'Guni is classed as a medium-sized animal. They are browsers and grazers which means that they can survive in grassland, savannah and deep bush.

They are known as good mothers and very easy calvers. Partly this is due to the low birth weights of the calves but also due to their conformation (as a breed, they have a sloping rump).

Apart from their traditional tribal uses, there are 140 registered N'Guni herds in Southern Africa, raising a total of 140 000 head of cattle. This is a truly ancient breed that has considerably promise for improving the fecundity and disease resistance of cattle in general.

Appearance / health:
N'Guni cattle are characterized by their black muzzles and hooves. Typically they have pigmented hides (which protects them from direct sunlight). Their coats are short, fine and glossy and exhibit a wide variety of colours (black, white, red, brown, cream, yellow and dun are typical). They can either be unicoloured or patterned. Bulls have crescent-shaped horns and cervico-thoracic hump that is muscular in structures. Mature cows have horns that are lyre-shaped and which are thinner and longer than in the males. Unless particularly well-fed the hump in the female is not easy to discern. N'gunis calve easily with small calves that grow rapidly. Mean inter-calving time, even in drought conditions, is 402 days, which makes the N'Guni one of the world's most fecund breeds. Cows stand about 120cm at the shoulder, with the bulls being slightly larger.

N'Guni have varied genetics and they are known as an incredibly hardy and healthy breed. Their thick hides protect them from the insect and tick-borne illnesses that are prevalent in Africa. They also have an active immune system and quickly develop immunity to most infectious diseases. Like all ungulates they can be prone to intestinal parasites and a regular worming regimen is recommended.

Behavior / temperament:
Like all African cattle, the N'Guni have been selectively bred to work closely alongside humans. During the almost 3000 years that this breed has been in existence there has been a concerted effort to eliminate aggression and a fearful temperament from their genetics. As draft animals this is a very powerful breed and they work well together in teams.

Housing / diet:
N'Guni cattle have been selectively bred to be very hardy and resistant to heat. Under normal conditions they are raised outdoors all the time, only being tethered at night so that they can be guarded from predators. In cooler climates they need to be housed indoors for the colder months.

Naturally they will graze on any grass available and will even browse bushes and trees for leaves. Even in arid semi-desert conditions they will put on weight rapidly as long as there is forage available. However, they can also be raised in intensive systems with commercial feed.

Written by Dyfed Lloyd Evans


draft animals, dualpurpose breed, docile b


Sanga cattle, African subspecies

N'guni Cattle Health Tip

N'guni Cattle

From DLlE Sep 20 2012 9:41AM


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