The Ankole Cows of Uganda – Rwanda – The Cattle Of Royalty
A Sight to Behold -the Long-Horned Ankole Cattle in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings- Watusi Cattle
Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings. The long-horned Ankole Cattle can often be seen as you travel throughout Western Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, where they are known as Watusi Cattle. In Rwanda, specially selected Watusi Cows were selected and bred, becoming the Inyambo, the cattle of Kings.
The Ankole Cows have a long history, and they can be traced back 6,000 years to the Egyptians. Today they are an endangered species because of crossbreeding. They represent African cultural traditions, a way of life in Western Uganda and Rwanda that has come under threat causing concern to Cultural Leaders and Presidents alike.
Traditionally, the Cows were revered and are a symbol of status and wealth today. Ankole Cows were used to pay the bride-Price. Ankole cattle were not used for their meat but for dairy products such as ghee, butter, and bongo, a fermented milk product.
The Ankole Cows are part of an ancient culture and traditions that you can discover when you visit Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, home to the famed Ankole Cattle. Prized cows with royalty running through their veins are endangered due to crossbreeding and being replaced by dairy Cattle. Conservation efforts are underway to protect the Ankole Cattle from extinction.
Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings-known as Watusi Cows
The long-horned Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings. As you venture across Southwest Uganda and Rwanda, you will come across not only magnificent scenery, wildlife, primates, and birds. Also, you will see the most majestic creature among domesticated animals found in Africa.
The Ankole Cows the Cattle of Kings and Royalty, the long-horned Ankole Cattle. Ankole Cattle has been called Inyambo”the Cattle of Kings,” because of their close ties and importance to the royalty of Southwest Uganda and Rwanda. Once you see these majestic cows, you will understand why they are referred to as the “Cattle of Royalty.”
Since the Middle Ages, Ankole Cattle have been in Uganda and Rwanda. They descended from the Ethiopian Sanga Cattle – which originated in Eurasia with a lineage for thousands of years. Images of long-horned cattle have been found in Egyptian drawings and Art.
The Ankole cows belong to a breed of African cattle belonging to the broader Sanga cattle group of African Cattle breeds. They were introduced to Uganda between five and seven hundred years ago by nomadic pastoralists from more northern parts of the continent.
The Ankole cattle survived and thrived – living on meager pasture and not needing much water – a hardy livestock breed, unlike most animals. What sets them even further apart is the size of their horns which can exceed 2.5 meters in length. When you see a herd of Ankole cattle, visitors to Uganda and Rwanda are amazed – surprised by the sight of the range and size of Ankole Cattle Horns.
Ankole Cattle were bred for the prized longhorns and colorful skins. The Longhorns also protect Ankole cattle from lions, leopards, and hyenas. They form a tight circle, and their horns will face outward toward the predator.
Ankole Cows were valued because of signifying wealth for the owner, and the size of his herd saw a man’s wealth. The other factors considered the size of the horns of his cattle and the coloration of the hides.
The most prestigious, the noblest cow in Rwanda is “Inyambo,” with a blackish or brownish-red hide, large – beautifully shaped horns, and thundering hoofs. Other Ankole cows of any coloration are called Ibigarama. In contrast, short cows, cows that are not lean, are called Inkuku, a version of the Bantu word for chicken.
Visitors to Rwanda should take in the Inyambo ceremonial cows at the King’s Palace Museum in Rukari, Nyanza district, home to Inyambo, where the traditional cows were bred for the King.
Physically, these magnificent creatures are characterized by their exceptionally long horns and dignified appearance. Their historical and cultural importance is even more impressive. They included their presence in special ceremonies for the King. They were decorated and spruced up and learned how to dance by listening to a trainer’s songs called “amahamba” and “amazing Inka” and even following dance-like movements.
In southwest Uganda and Rwanda, cattle were royalty – the Pastoralists of that region saw their lives intertwined with their cows, and their lives rotated around their animals.
“Being a Muhima means you must have an Ankole cow, and without a cow, you are not worth being a man. Even if you don’t have a cow, friends and relatives can contribute some cows for you. Cows give you a start in life toward wealth. Patrick Rubagyema, a pastoralist states, “You are an important person if you have many cows. Cows give status and recognition.”
The Bahima people of Uganda divide the day into 20 periods – 19 of those daily periods have to do with their cattle-related activities. The Ugandan and Rwandan pastoralists looked down on farmers, those who fished, and even hunters. Only Buffaloes and the large Eland Antelopes were hunted, most likely because they had some cattle-related qualities.
Those who kept Cattle in Uganda and Rwanda did not consist of meat. However, the blood tapped from the veins of cows, which was combined with milk and consumed.
Slaughtering a healthy cow was seen as a form of cannibalism. Infertile cows and other bulls were sometimes slaughtered for special occasions, and no part of the slaughtered cow would be wasted. Hides were made into mats, drum coverings, and clothing. The dung of cows was used to plaster buildings and create Art on the outside of Homes.
Imigongo is an art form found in Rwanda near Akagera National Park. Here women create cow-dung Art, now on canvas and wood sold to visitors and gift shops. The horns were made into musical instruments and ornamental jewelry.
When it comes to marriage, the Bride’s Price is paid for with Ankole cattle. M bore cattle is required if the bride is deemed exceptionally beautiful. Paying the bride’s price with cattle is a mandatory requirement among pastoral communities.
Parents claim they do not trust marrying their daughters to families with no wealth. Wealth is determined by the number of cows one possesses. A local proverb says it best “If you don’t have a cow, don’t ask for a woman.”
There are Five Regional Strains of the Ankole Cattle in East Africa’s Great Lakes Region
- Kigezi Variety is found in the southwest corner of Uganda. They result from interbreeding local Ankole cattle with the Smaller hump-less Shorthorn cattle in the region.
- Watusi Variety that you will come across in Burundi and Rwanda and the Kivu area of DR Congo. They have the massive and most extended horns of any Ankole Strain. They are not confused with the American breed, the Ankole-Watusi.
- Ruzizi Variety from the Ruzizi valley, along the Ruzizi River between Lake Kivu and Lake Tanganyika, near DR Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi. They have long, sickle-shaped horns. The coat color is brown, but you might find red-and-white and black-and-white.
- Bahima Variety is found from north-eastern DRC and across the border in north-western Uganda. They are the tallest Ankole Variety.
- Bashi Variety is found in the southwest of Lake Kivu in eastern DR Congo.
Today Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings are used for:
- Status – Ankole Cows are and remain a status symbol.
- Ankole Cattle are used to pay the Bride’s Price by the groom in negotiated settlements between families.
- Ankole Cattle remains one of the best gifts for special occasions.
- Food – The Meat is tasty and low in cholesterol. The meat is not tough. Milk – Ghee-Butter-Bongo Fermented Milk and, more recently, cheese and yogurt.
- Income for the cattle-keeping Pastoralist as they sell cattle for market.
- Hides from Ankole Cattle are still used as Drum-coverings – clothing, sleeping mats, and more.
- Cow-dung is still used to fertilize – plaster and paint homes.
- Cowdung Paintings – Imigongo has become an art form in Rwanda.
- Some see Ankole Cow Urine as having medicinal qualities.
- Ankole Cow Horns are used for decorations and creating jewelry, often sold to tourists.
You will enjoy the Ankole cattle of Rwanda and Uganda. If you are not a vegetarian or vegan, you will enjoy the taste of the beef from steaks to stews, but most of all, you will enjoy the large Ankole Cattle Herds that you will come across all over Rwanda and Southwest Uganda.
You can also include a day in a traditional Village in Southwest Uganda. There on the border with Tanzania, you water the Ankole Cows, milk them, create Ghee, go about a day in the pastoralist village of Nshenyi and learn the ways of old practices in Rwanda and Uganda.
President Museveni of Uganda – Uganda’s #1 Ankole Cow Rancher:
President Museveni is the Proud Owner of 5,000 heads of Ankole Cows. He even mikes his favorite one when he is home on his beloved Kisozi Cattle Ranch, which has become a place of refuge from the business of State Affairs for the President.
He even hosts visiting Presidents, Dignitaries, and other officials there. His porch affords him a great view of these magnificent cows that are his prized and beloved possession. He even uses the things learned on the Ranch to inspire fellow Ugandans to become Cattle Ranchers and make a decent profit.
President Kagame of Rwanda, on a state visit to Uganda and the Kisozi Ranch, even gave him a gift of Ankole Watusi Cows from Rwanda.
The Ankole Cows of Uganda – even the country’s President loves them. He and the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, and the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, also an Ankole Cattle Rancher.
President Museveni and others are spearheading an effort to preserve the Ankole herds of Uganda. They have come under threat and are now endangered due to crossbreeding to increase milk production in Uganda.
The endangered Ankole Cattle – A Tourist Attraction in Uganda:
The Ankole Cow Is under threat. It comes down to simple economics. They are not commercial milk-producing cows, and it takes more land for grazing, and farmers and Pastoralists need to make a profit. Cultural Prestige that comes with Ankole Cattle has become a secondary issue.
The Ankole Cattle face extinction within the next ten years. The Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA), an organization that works with pastoral communities in the Horn of Africa, warns that, if necessary, conservation intervention to conserve the long-horned cattle is not put in place now, ankole cattle will become extinct.
Because of these imminent threats, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, a government agency in charge of wildlife management and other conservationists, allows some Ankole long-horned cows in Lake Mburo National Park for conservation and tourism purposes.
The Ankole Cattle is one of the most attractive cows on the planet. Though not wildlife, they have a certain magnetic tourist appeal to them, and Lake Mburo is in the very heart of what used to be Ankole Cattle country. The two have gone hand-in-hand in the past and now in the present and future. They are not a significant nuisance to the wildlife found in the park, and tourists are delighted to see them.
The Ankole Cattle as a Tourism attraction is only logical, and the Motto of the Uganda Wildlife is conserving for future generations. Future generations will delight to see the majestic Ankole Cattle in Uganda.
The Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings – you will not miss them on Safari
Imigongo Paintings – Where Cow-Dung becomes Art:
When it comes to beloved Ankole- Inyambo Cows, nothing is wasted. Even Cow-dung is turned into an art form throughout the world.
Visit Rwanda, and you will see it everywhere, in government lobbies, hotels, restaurants, lodges.
It has become quite popular with Tourists who purchase it and take it home to put on their walls. Imigongo Paintings can learn how to make them while visiting Rwanda in the village where the Art-Form originated. It used to decorate the outside of the home but has come a long way, and the paintings are found in the most beautiful hotels and lodges in Rwanda.
Imigongo Cow-Dung Paintings – a bit of Ankole Cow Trivia for you. of something you did not know.
Purchase a painting in Rwanda and support the Imigongo community. Your purchase will make a difference in their lives.
Nshenyi Cultural Village where Cows are the King of Beasts:
If you like to get close to some Ankole Cows, even milk some, there is the Nshenyi Village Stay near the Tanzanian and Rwandan border.
Nshenyi Cultural Village is a hands-on experience where you go to work to learn the traditional ways of ranching in Africa.
Be sure to include the Igongo Cultural Heritage Center on the way to Western Uganda, where the Ankole Cattle and Culture is featured once again.
We can extend your safari and include a day in the Nshenyi Cultural Village if you are anywhere in Western Uganda on Safari with us, a wonderful place to unwind for a day or two.
There are other cultural sites where the focus is Ankole Cattle found around Western Uganda. If you are interested in incorporating the Ankole cattle culture in your safari itinerary, Please fee free to contact us.