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Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings-known as Watusi cows

Posted by on April 17, 2021

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


Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings

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 that can be traced back 6,000 years. Today they are an endangered species because of crossbreeding. They represent African Culture traditions, a way of life in Western Uganda and Rwanda that has come under threat causing concern to Cultural Leaders and Presidents alike. 

Traditionally, Ankole Cows were revered and were and are today a symbol of status and wealth. Ankole Cows were used to pay the Bride-Price. They were not used for meat but 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.


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, birds. Also, you will see the most majestic creature amongAnkole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings-known as Watusi cows 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 that goes back for thousands of years. Images of long-horned cattle have been found in Egyptian drawing 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 breed of livestock, unlike most animals. What sets them even further apart is the size of horns that 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 Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings-known as Watusi cowsAnkole Cattle were bred to produce longhorns and colorful skins. The Longhorns also protect Ankole cattle from predators such as lions, leopards, and hyenas. They form a tight circle, and their horns will face outward toward the predator.

Ankole Cows were valued because of the status of signifying wealth for the owner. 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.

In Rwanda – the most prestigious, the noblest cow 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 marked by their very 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 referred to as “amahamba” and “amazinay’ Inka” and even follow dance-like movements.Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings-known as Watusi cows

In southwest Uganda and Rwanda, cattle were royalty – the Pastoralists of that region saw their lives intertwined with their cows. 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.

The diet of 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.

Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings-known as Watusi cowsSlaughtering a healthy cow was seen as a form of cannibalism. Infertile cows and other bulls were at times slaughtered for special occasions. 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 to create Art on the outside of Homes. 

Imigongo is an art form that is found in Rwanda near Akagera National Park. Here women create cow-dung Art, now on canvas and wood that sold to visitors and gift shops. The horns were made into musical instruments and ornamental jewelry.

The Bride’s Price is paid for with Ankole cattle when it comes to marriage. The cows are used in paying bride price, a mandatory requirement among pastoral communities.

Parents claim they do not trust marrying off 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

Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings-known as Watusi cows

  • Kigezi Variety is found in the southwest corner of Uganda. They are a result of 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 are the ones with massive and most extended horns of any Ankole Strain. They are not to be confused with the American breed, referred to as 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 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 Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings-known as Watusi cows
  • 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 – its tasty low-cholesterol is tasty and not robust — 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 over the years in Rwanda.
  • Some see cow Urine as having medicinal qualities.
  • Ankole Cow Horns are used for decorations and creating jewelry, which often is 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.


Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings-known as Watusi cowsPresident 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 in inspiring 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 President of the Country loves them.  He and the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, and the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, who is 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. Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings-known as Watusi cowsIt takes more land for grazing. 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 in the past and now in the present and future have gone hand-in-hand. 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 only logical. 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 while visiting Uganda and Rwanda.


Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings-known as Watusi cowsImigongo 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 local community.


Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings-known as Watusi cowsNshenyi 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 great place to unwind for a day or two. 

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