Origin and distribution: Mpwapwa is a composite breed out of local and indo-Pakistani zebu cattle in Tanzania developed since 1940. The breed was developed from the original concept of an Indo-African breed by Dr. H.G. Hutchison who first crossed the local Tanganyika Zebu cows with Red Sindhi and Sahiwal bulls imported from Kenya and called the cross `Indo-African' [CS 1.11 by Gwakisa]. Crossing started in 1940s whereas breeding programme in 1958. Later, some Bos taurus blood (Ayrshire and Jersey) was introduced and later still Boran cattle were incorporated so that by mid-1960s at Mpwapwa Livestock Breeding Station, the breed contained approximately 20% Tanganyika Zebu, 10% Boran, 5% Ankole, 55% Red Sindhi and Sahiwal and 10% Ayrshire (Getz et al. 1986). The breed development continued and in 1971 the breed constituted 32% Red Sindhi, 30% Sahiwal, 19% Tanganyika Zebu, 10% Boran and 9% Ayrshire and Shorthorn. Then the breed was selected towards Sahiwal and by 1988 its share grew to 75% Sahiwal (Katyega 1987). The breed is still being developed at the breeding station (Kasonta and Nitter 1990).

Physical characteristics: The Mpwapwa has the appearance of Sahiwal. They are usually light to dark red, red or red-and-white in colour, but there are some black and black-and-white animals. A hump is normally present and its size larger in males than in females. The development of the dewlap and navel folds or sheath is less than in many other zebu breeds but is certainly more than in European stock. Height at withers is 119 cm in both males and females. Mpwapwa cows have a deep body and wide hips with a well-shaped udder. They are medium sized animals by international standards. Mature males weigh between 450 and 600 kg and females weigh between 350 and 450 kg at maturity. A figure of 275-290 kg is given for the weight of heifers at first calving (Katyega 1987; Msechu et al. 1989; DAD-IS 2005).

Peculiarity: Mpwapwa cattle are usually humped. This breed is hardy and performs better in milk yield and weight gain than local zebu in harsh semi-arid conditions (Katyega 1987).

Breed status: Recent changes in policy in Tanzania have resulted in some further infusion of European blood into the already developed Mpwapwa cattle. It would appear that the original Mpwapwa would disappear, or remain only as a small group of cows, which in view of its early success and its suitability for Tanzanian conditions seems unfortunate. There is no sustained programme and no on-going multiplication. The breed is at risk and the population size by 1997 was 1000 - 1500. Other than animals on government stations, there are no "purebreds" left on farms (Rege 1999; Rege and Tawah 1999). Das (2004 in DAD-IS, 2005) indicated that the remaining animals are found mainly on research stations and very few are kept by farmers. The animals are at verge of extinction.

Utility: The Mpwapwa is a dual-purpose (beef and milk) breed. The average milk yield before 1966 for 236 cows (excluding lactations of less than 84 days) was 1 415 kg in the first lactation (Katyega 1987; DAD-IS 2005). In 1980's the yield from 2456 lactation records (1st - 9th lactations length and yield averaged 209 days and 1,072 kg, respectively (Mchau 1988). In a later study, the average lactation was 288 days and calving interval was 40.2 months (Katyega 1987). Birth weight of males and females is 30 and 25, respectively. Weaning weight ranges between 52 and 56 kg. Live weight at slaughter (at age of 4 years) was 425.9 kg with average dressing percentage of 53% (DAD-IS 2005). However, in steers, slaughter weight and dressing percentage between 1959 and 1963 at Mpwapwa were 468.6 kg and 56.8%, respectively (Katyega 1987). Reproduction and dairy performance of Mpwapwa breed and its crosses are summarised in Table 1.

Table 1. Performance of Mpwapwa, F1, and backcross animals at Mpwapwa Livestock Production Research Institute, Tanzania




EuropeanX Mpwapwa F1

Mpwapwa x F1

Age at first calving (months)




Calving interval (days)

409.4 (883)

385.1 (426)

373.5 (158)

Lactation yield (kg)

1,863.7 (1435)

2,724.6 (641)

2,129.0 (198)

Lactation length (days)

288.1 (1435)

297.0 (641)

285.9 (198)

Daily milk yield (kg)

6.7 (1435)

9.2 (641)

7.3 (198)


* Figures in parenthesis are number of animals

Source: Katyega (1987).


DAD-IS, 2005:

Getz W.R. Hutchison, H.G. Kyomo, M.L. Macha, A.M. and Mpiri D. 1986. Development of a dual-purpose cattle composite in the tropics. 3rd World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Lincoln, Nebraska, Vol. XI, pp. 493-498.

Kasonta J.S. and Nitter, G. 1990. Efficiency of nucleus breeding schemes in dual-purpose cattle of Tanzania.Animal Production50(2):245-251.

Katyega P.M.J. 1987. Mpwapwa cattle of Tanzania.FAO/UNEP Animal Genetic Resources Information Bulletin6:23-26.

Mchau K.W. 1988. Production characteristics of Mpwapwa cattle. 1. Lactation yield and length. World Animal Review 65:11-17.

Msechu J.K.K. Das S.M. Mpiri D.B. 1989. Improvement of zebu cattle productivity through breeding. TSAP Conference Series (Tanzania). Tanzania Society of Animal Production, Morogoro. 14:1-22.

Rege J.E.O. 1999. The state of African cattle genetic resources. I. Classification framework and identification of threatened and extinct breeds.FAO/UNEP Animal Genetic Resources Information Bulletin. 25:1-25.

Rege J.E.O. and Tawah C.L. 1999. The state of African cattle genetic resources II. Geographical distributions, characteristics and uses of present-day breeds and strains. FAO/UNEP Animal Genetic Resources Information Bulletin26:1-25.

Related Litrature

Das S.M., Mgheni M., Msechu J.K.K. and Mpiri D.B. 1989. Association between milk production and reproductive efficiency traits in Mpwapwa cattle and their crosses. TSAP Conference Series (Tanzania). Tanzania Society of Animal Production, Morogoro.13:167-182.

Das S.M., Msechu J.K.K. and Mkonyi J.I. 1991. Culling patterns of improved zebu cattle and their crosses in the semi-arid zone of Tanzania. TSAP Conference Series (Tanzania). Tanzania Society of Animal Production, Morogoro. 17:127-137.

Mason I.L. 1996. A World Dictionary of Livestock Breeds, Types and Varieties. Fourth Edition. C.A.B. International. 273 pp.

Maule J.P. 1990. The cattle of the tropics. Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Great Britain. 225 pp.

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