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Animal Data > Ankole Cattle

(Bos taurus taurus ankole)

Status Distribution Sexually Mature
Domestic Breed, in no Danger Tribelands of eastern and southern Africa 2 - 2.5 years
Number of Young Gestation Life Span
1 280 days 20 years

Ankole cattle are a purely domestic breed and should not be confused with wild species such as buffalo and bison. They are selectively bred to increase horn size, cows with the largest horns being of much greater value than those with smaller ones. They are also known as watussi cattle as they are kept by an East African tribe of that name, though they are bred by tribes as far south as Botswana where, at Lake Ngami, a record tip to tip horn length of nearly 4 metres has been recorded. The breeding of these animals is carefully managed by the tribespeople.

African tribespeople are fiercely proud of their cattle and develop close bonds with them. Accordingly, the cattle have been given a special place in tribal folklore and art. Herd size depends on the wealth of the owner or on the number of daughters he may have - cattle are a standard dowry. Bulls are normally killed for their meat. Cows are kept for their milk and blood which, mixed together, form a medicinal drink.

The cattle spend their day grazing, accompanied by a herd boy and, at night, they are put into a Kraal (corral) for protection against lions.

Once a year, selected animals are taken on foot to the nearest town to be sold. As most of the prime watering places now lie within game reserves many cattle succumb to thirst and those which survive the journey are very weak.

Main Features

Large impressive animal with long horns, particularly on the female. Usually red in colour, sometimes with white markings.

In Captivity

Ankole cattle are to be seen in several zoos and despite being a domestic breed are a popular attraction. They feed on a basic diet of grass supplemented by food concentrates.


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