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

Posted by on November 27, 2019

The Ankole Cows of Uganda – Rwanda – The Cattle Of Royalty

A Sight to Behold -Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings

 Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings – The long-horned Ankole Cattle are often 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 cross-breeding. They represent African Culture Tradition, 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. In the past, 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 in abundance but the most majestic creature among domesticated animals found in Africa – the Cattle of Kings and Royalty, the long-horned Ankole Cattle. Ankole Cattle has been called “the Cattle of Kings” because of their close ties and importance to the royalty of Southwest Uganda and Rwanda, and 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 descended from the Ethiopian Sanga Cattle – that 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 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, and 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 to produce longhorns and colorful skins, the Longhorns also protect Ankole cattle from predators such as lions, leopards, hyenas where 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, while short cows, cows that are not lean, are called Inkuku, which may be a version of the Bantu word for Chicken.

Visitors to Rwanda should take in the Inyambo ceremonial cows at the King’s Palace Museum located in Rukari, Nyanza district, home to Inyambo-the traditional cows bred for the King.

Physically, these magnificent creatures are marked by their very long horns and dignified appearance. The historical and cultural importance is even more impressive including their presence in special ceremonies for the  King for which they were decorated and spruced up and also learned how to dance by listening to a trainer’s songs referred to as “amahamba” and “amazinay’inka” and even follow 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. 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, fishers, 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.

Slaughtering 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. An art-form called Imigongo can still found in Rwanda near Akagera National Park, where women create cow-dung art now on canvas and wood that sold to visitors and gift-shops. The horns made into musical instruments and ornamental jewelry.

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 – 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.
  • Cowdung 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 that are practiced in Rwanda and Uganda.

 President Museveni of Uganda – Uganda’s #1 Ankole Cow Rancher:

President Museveni is the Proud Owner of 5,000 head 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.  Not only does he but 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 cross-breeding to increase milk production.

The Ankole Cows in Uganda – Rwanda – the Cattle of Kings – you will not miss them while visiting Uganda and Rwanda.

 Imigongo Paintings – Where Cow-Dung becomes Art:

When it comes to beloved Ankole- Inyambo Cows, nothing is wasted. Even the Cowdung is turned into 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, you can learn how to make them while visiting Rwanda in the village where the Art-Form originated, where 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 Cowdung 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.

 Nshenyi Cultural Villages 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. Where you learn the traditional ways of ranching in Africa.

Be sure to include the Igongo Cultural Heritage Center on the way to Western Uganda where once again the Ankole Cattle and Culture is featured

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. 

Two Cattle Ranchers at Odds:

 During 2019 two cattle Ranchers, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Museveni of Uganda, are at odds with one another, which has resulted in a border row between the two countries.  It reminds us who are not politicians, political analysts but a tour operator of the African Proverb “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”

Rwandans have family in Uganda and Ugandans have family in Rwanda. The two presidents were brothers in arms in the liberation of Uganda, and President Museveni even received a medal from Rwanda for supporting Rwanda Patriotic Front in their quest to stop the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.

They have met on each other’s ranches in better times. We think that it is time to do so again. While the elephants are fighting through proxies, the media of both countries, the grass is getting trampled. Most Ugandans, most Rwandans want peaceful coexistence, an open border.

Rwanda has been gracious enough to allow Ugandan Tour Operators to continue taking visitors to Africa across the border in either direction. Like many, it is time to come and reason. A rancher to rancher visit without all the distraction. We hope that soon, there will be an amicable resolution dealing with the root causes that led to this.

For an Ankole Cattle Cultural Tour – Please Contact us