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9 African Cattle Breeds: An Overview

Simmental Cattle close up

With the United States, Brazil, and Europe being the largest producers of beef in the world, it’s hard to imagine other countries, like Africa, being able to compete. Africa is an enormous continent, and their cattle have had to adapt to various environmental conditions over the past few centuries. We have become so accustomed to the types of cows we regularly see here in the US that we often don’t even consider what other kinds are living in different parts of the world. You may be surprised to know that there are over 150 cattle breeds that are indigenous to Africa. Today, there is quite the mosaic of livestock diversity in this part of the world, and we’re going to walk you through the breeds that are most common in Africa today.

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The Top 9 African Cattle Breeds of 2023

1. Nguni Cattle

Nguni Cattle
Image Credit: holmespj, Pixabay

The Nguni breed is native to parts of southern Africa. They are actually a hybrid of an Indian and European breed that was eventually introduced to some of the Bantu-speaking tribes. These cows are known for their high fertility rates and resistance to diseases. They have multi-colored skin with many different patterns. However, their most distinguishing features include their black-tipped noses and low cervicothoracic humps.


2. Ankole-Watusi Cattle

Ankole-Watusi
Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay

While crossbreeding has made these cattle far more popular here in the US, these cows come from a group of Sanga cattle breeds that originate from parts of east and central Africa. They are usually red but can come in many different colors. These cows stand out because they have unusually large horns, with some reaching over three feet long on each side.


3. Afrikaner Cattle

Afrikaner Cattle
Image Credit: Alta Pretorius, Shutterstock

Also called the Africander, this cattle breed is indigenous to South Africa and was almost extinct in the early 20th century. Thankfully, these cows have made a comeback. They are often deep red in color with long legs and shallow bodies. They also have good resistance to hot, arid conditions because their sweat glands are more active than other types of cattle.


4. Bonsmara Cattle

Bonsmara
Image Credit: Erich Sacco, Shutterstock

This is another cattle breed that originates from the country of South Africa. These cows were bred strictly for grazing in sub-tropical climates, where many cattle at the time didn’t have any heat tolerance. Bonsmara cattle have red coats and must be de-horned in order to conform to breeding standards.


5. Boran Cattle

Boran Cattle
Image Credit: Jaco van Rensburg, Shutterstock

Boran cows are one of the most popular beef breeds in easter Africa. They were first bred in southern parts of Ethiopia. Most of these cows have white or fawn coats, with many of the males being darker overall. They are well adapted to resist parasites and mature early.


6. N’Dama

Coming from West Africa, the N’Dama breed is also commonly called the Boenca or Boyenca cattle. These large beef cattle originated in the highlands of Guinea. They are trypanotolernt cattle, meaning that they can be kept in fly-infested areas without catching diseases.


7. Drakensberger Cattle

These stocky, large, black-colored bulls originated in South Africa and have become prevalent around the world. Their coats are long and smooth. Mature bulls can weigh anywhere up to 2,500 pounds. They are often bred for their milk production, high fertility, and even temperaments.


8. Abigar Cattle

Abigar Cattle
Image Credit: MoreToTheShell,Pixabay

Abigar cattle are usually found in eastern Africa and used primarily for dairy farming. They can produce over 4 cups of milk for every lactation and some of the hardiest animals in the continent. They are resistant to drought, heat, water shortages, and disease outbreaks.


9. White Fulani Cattle

The Fulani cattle are another important breed in Africa. They were conquered by the Fulani people and white in color with lyre-shaped horns. There are also Red Fulani cattle, but they are separate from the white in both origin and present locations.

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How Did Cattle Get to Africa?

There are over 100 cattle breeds that have been identified in Africa, many of which didn’t actually start there. Most of the cattle in Africa today came from the areas where Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Israel currently sit. So, how did they get there? For the most part, these animals started to migrate south and interbreed with local species thousands of years ago. Many of their genomes are still similar to the cattle that were first domesticated in the Middle East. Of course, this isn’t their only form of travel. Human travelers have moved different cattle breeds from place to place. Over time, they have become widespread, and many of the top breeds today can be found in countries across the globe.hoof print divider

Conclusion: African Cattle Breeds

Africa has created some of the most beautiful, unique creatures that currently roam our planets. While most of today’s cattle are domesticated, it’s nice to understand the history of these animals and how they ended up in the places they are currently. Living in Africa means you must adapt to the harsh surroundings, and it is amazing that so many breeds have been able to adjust to the heat and illnesses that many of the cattle here in the US wouldn’t be able to tolerate.


Featured Image Credit: Smirre, Pixabay

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