A kaleidoscope of Nguni

Thabaphaswa Nguni Stud pursues a breeding policy that is scientifically and performance based.  Selection criteria include fertility, longevity, maintaining a good condition under difficult circumstances, a good weaning weight, milk qualities and growth.
 
We breed Ngunis
  • which will adapt well anywhere in Southern Africa;
  • that are running on sour mountainous where heartwater, redwater and gallsickness are prevalent;
  • where bulls for sale are veldt bull tested;
  • Mentoring and other support services are available to new breeders and small farmers.
Embryo and semen can be obtained at Embryoplus (+27) 12 250 2359
 
Contact Deon Richter
 
Background
 
All cattle descend from the wild aurochs (Bos taurus primigenius) of Europe, Asia and North Africa which became extinct during the 17th century.
 
Since aurochs had such a wide distribution, different eco-types were apparent. The independent development lead to gradual genetic changes, leaving each broad group with their own characteristics, hence various breeds began to emerge. Thereafter the cattle developed further according to the regions they were herded into and were introduced to Southern Africa by iron using Africans about 2000 years ago.
 
Not only did they provide food (especially milk), but their skins were also used for clothing and utensils. Their dung was an important source of fuel, and when mixed with clay was used for plastering and flooring.
 
Africans do not recognize breeds in the same sense as Europeans. Their cattle are primarily naturally selected in a process of adaptation to local environmental conditions. Isolation in contrasting environments in S.A. has lead to the development of several eco-types within the Nguni breed.
 
The modern Nguni is small to medium in size depending on the prevailing nutritional conditions. The depth of body is good with moderate width. The dewlap is thin and refined and the cervico-thoracic hump is hardly noticeable in the cows but fairly well developed in the full grown bull. The rump droops towards the tail and the hind quarter is comparatively light. The face is wide and slightly convex and the ears are small with a sharp apex. Udders and teats are small and the horns are noticeably lyre shaped.
 
These animals are extremely hardy and fertile. They calve easily and have the lowest calving interval of all breeds. The fertility and survival rate of Nguni enables it to produce more beef per breeding cow per unit area in its environment and therefore should play an increasingly important role in commercial beef production in Africa. When grazing is good, Nguni are able to build up body strength and reserves rapidly. The carcasses, although small, yield good beef.
 
Nguni colouration
 
The patterned beasts are distinctive, however, Nguni cattle are often monochrome and predominantly white, red, black brown and dun animals are common. The Ndebele people recognize 80 different colour patterns that are either uniform, spotted or pied.
 
This perception has given rise to a poetic and complex naming practice. The subtle nuance of African languages captures the delicate inter-relationship between cattle terminology and the natural world where the colour and pattern of a hide, gender, age, virility or shape of a pair of horns is metaphorically linked to images in nature. "The eggs of the lark" is a creamy beast spotted with fine rust speckles. A deeply dappled animal is called "The gaps between the branches of the trees silhouetted against the sky". A dark beast that shows a flash of white beneath its flanks when it walks is the "Hornbill in flight" and the upright points of a young steers horns is "What stabs the rain". Some other quaint names include "Sugar bean", "Stones of the forest", "Lizard", "Caterpillars of the Marula" and "Fiscal flycatcher". Birds are commonly portrayed, as are mammals, reptiles, insects, shadows, clouds and sand. Honorific individual names are often also given.
 
Nguni cattle in culture and tradition
 
Cattle became intertwined with the very fabric of belief and culture and played an integral part of the daily life of the community. Ancestors, being the deceased members of a community who continue to watch over their descendants, have a basically benevolent practice but they can be moved to anger for various reasons. One of these is when a homestead head omits to provide generous hospitality to the wider community through meat and beer feasts. If the ancestors are angered (displaying this in some form of misfortune), rituals have to be performed to appease the dead. Typically they take the form of a blood sacrifice involving cattle, because the wrath of the ancestors is thought to be expressed through a hunger for meat.
 
The traditional cattle kraal, consisting of closely planted stakes, is a very sacred place. In the beliefs of the Africans, they house the spirits of ancestors and therefore have very powerful "muti".
 
Deep under the accumulated dung in the cattle kraal, early herders built bell-shaped grain pits each covered with a stone slab and sealed with dung, This protected their valuable food source from both insects and animals thus ensuring the survival of the family into the future.
 
It has been recorded that the family head took great care to rise and pass water each morning before his bull did. This maintained his authority over both the human group and herd.
 
Conclusion
 
Throughout the ages, the wellbeing of the herds and the wellbeing of humans have been so closely connected that the cattle have become part of the spiritual and aesthetic lives of the people.
 
Its social and cultural roles remain in tact today, however the uncontrolled cross-breeding and replacement by exotic breeds in rural areas has become a matter of concern.
 
Traditionally stud breeding emphasizes uniformity and breed standards and the Nguni Cattle Breeders Society is no exception. Any artificial change to their special attributes would affect their adaptability to their surroundings hence it is important that selection for commercial traits does not result in the loss of the survival and fitness traits that make these animals so attractive.