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Chris vd Merwe
Tel: 011 795 4204
Cell: 084 595 4204

IW vd Merwe
Tel: 058 841 0596
Cell: 084 555 5757


Nguni Facts

Nguni cattle derive their name from the black tribes of Africa, collectively known as the Nguni people. Nguni cattle descend from both Bos Taurus and Bos Indicus cattle and entered Africa around 8000 years ago. As the tribes migrated south into Africa they took their cattle along. Through natural selection and environmental interaction the cattle evolved into the hardy breed we know today as the Nguni. As the tribes settled in different areas, distinctive cattle ecotypes developed, but are essentially still Ngunis.

Only in 1932 did the late Professor HH Curzon make an effort to breed true to type Nguni cattle which resulted in the formation of the Bartlow Combine breeding station in the late 1940’s. Another milestone in the recognition of the Nguni breed was the Bonsma report of 1950 on indigenous cattle in South Africa where the appreciation of this adapted breed was highlighted. Final recognition came in 1985 when the Nguni Cattle Breeders Society was accepted as a member of the South African Stud Book and Livestock Improvement Association.


The single biggest factor to highlight in the Nguni, is the fact that the Nguni is an adapted breed and should therefore display functional characteristics that shows that the animal can survive and reproduce efficiently in its given environment.

Apart from the characteristics listed below we look at specific traits that we know will make the animals more suited to the Highveld environment. The typical Highveld animal is smaller framed to survive on the lower nutrition sourveld and has ample stomach capacity to digest a big volume of grass to extract the required quantity of nutrients every day.

Bulls are medium sized and weigh between 500kg and 600kg. They are muscular and display typical male characteristics with well developed, muscular, cervico-thoracic humps, which mean that the hump is in front of the foreleg. The scrotum must be well developed with good pigmentation and thermoregulatory function and must contain two equal sized testes. The sheath must be tucked up against the stomach and must be nicely controllable.

This is a picture of a young, three year old bull, note the well developed hump and scrotum size. The sheath is nicely tucked in under the ample belly and note the skin quality at the end of the Free State winter! A bull must also show some attitude which is reflected in the head, see the eyebrows, pert ears, wide forehead and that ‘you owe me money’ look!

The cows are small and weigh between 300kg and 400kg. They are feminine with sleek, delicate lines around the neck and forequarter and a prominent wedge shape with the weight in the stomach and hindquarter area. The sloping rump is a distinctive characteristic of the Nguni cow and ensures ease of calving. The udder is small to medium, well attached with small, functional teats.

This picture clearly shows the distinctive wedge shape and sloping rump. Note the dewlap attachment extending well in underneath the chest, between the legs, the slender tail and the good pigmentation on the teats. A very feminine looking animal!

Horn shapes and hide patterns are varied and no two animals are alike which has its own attraction and the cause of this breed being so distinctive from other breeds. The rest of the animal’s conformation should follow the maxim of ‘form follows function’ which ensures adaptability to its environment.

The hide should be sleek and glossy to prevent ticks attaching itself to the animal. All the senses must be well developed to ensure an alert animal. The legs and hoofs must be strong to enable the animal to walk and climb to find enough grazing. The tail must be thin and flexible with a full brush and extend to below the hock. Viewed from behind it should be evident that there is enough abdominal capacity as well as capacity across the rump, especially in female animals. The Nguni is known for its good temperament and should display these characteristics.

In the Breeders Association the following aspects are discriminated against. Any skeletal deviations like skew faces, deformed legs and claws, scoliosis, humped or hollow backs, narrow pelvis, skew tails and devil’s grip. Any deviations in the reproductive parts. Poor hide quality, albino and poor pigmentation. Feminine bulls and ox-like females. Long and droopy ears as well as any signs of foreign blood. Aggressive temperament.

Nguni cattle are heat and light tolerant and can handle extreme heat and cold alike. They are adaptable and hardy and possess excellent resistance to internal and external parasites with natural immunity to tick borne diseases. Early maturity, fertility, ease of calving and longevity ensures that cows have long and productive lives. The average birth weight of the calves born at Triple Z Nguni stud last year was 22.5kg.
Nguni cattle graze and browse and will walk and climb to find enough grazing for themselves. The Nguni can be fattened on natural grazing and performs well in the feedlot, producing quality carcasses with an even distribution of fat and excellent marbling .