From mountain gorillas to lions, from elephants to shoebills, Uganda is blessed with more than its fair share of impressive wild beasties. But it is also the major stronghold for what is unquestionably the most imposing of Africa’s domestic creatures; the remarkable long horned breed of cattle associated with various pastoralist peoples of the Ugandan-Tanzanian-Rwandan border area but most specifically with the Bahima of Ankole – Uganda.
Ankole cattle is by no means an ordinary Uganda safari product as it comes in several colors, ranging from uniform rusty yellow to blotched black and white, but they always have a long head, short neck, deep dewlap, and narrow chest and the male often sports thoracic hump. What most distinguish the Ankole from any familiar breed, are their preposterous, monstrous horns, which grow out from either side of the head like inverted elephant and in exceptional instances, reach dimensions unseen on any Ugandan tusker since the commercial ivory poaching outbreak of the 1980s.
The ancestry of this unique Uganda safari product that can be more less compared to the mountain gorillas of Bwindi or Murchison fall’s big five, can be traced back to Eurasia as early as 15,000BC, and belongs to the Sanga family of African breeds of cattle but the precursors of the modern long horned variety were introduced to northern Uganda only in late medieval times. Hardly, and capable of subsisting on limited water and poor grazing, these introduced cattle were ideally suited to harsh African conditions, except that they had no immunity to tsetse borne diseases which forced pastoralists who tended them to drift south ward. The outsized horns of the modern cattle Ankole are probably as a result of selective breeding subsequent to their ancestor’s arrival in southern Uganda about last 500 years. The Bahima attribute value to these cows regardless of their singular productivity than as status symbols: the wealth of man would be measured by the size and quality of his herd and the worth of an individual cow by its horn size and to a lesser extent its coloration.
This unique species of Ankole cattle and their extra ordinary horns, common in several parts of Uganda but numerous in the vicinity of Mbarara and Lake Mburo, pay living tribute to the bovine occupations of Ankole past and worth of encountering while undertaking your safari in Uganda. They can be visited along your Uganda wildlife safari to Queen Elizabeth and the adjacent L. Mburo national park or along your Uganda gorilla tracking safari to Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks.
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