Origin and distribution: The cattle from which Watusi cattle originated were brought to western and southern Uganda by Hamitic tribes migrating from northeastern Africa and possibly the Sahel in the 13th and 15th centuries. The Watusi cattle are a strain of the Ankole group of cattle (Epstein 1957). Tutsi (Watusi) people arrived with their massive horned Ankole cattle in present-day Rwanda and Burundi around the 14th century. Currently, the Watusi cattle account for almost all the national herd of Burundi and most of it in Rwanda. Their main location is over Burundi and Rwanda, and in Kivu area of the adjoining Kivu area of eastern DR Congo. The best developed Watusi cattle are found along the Ruzizi River on the borders of Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo.

Physical characteristics: Coat colours include brown (or fawn), red, red-brown or mahogany-brown, black and combination of these colours with white. Some animals are pied, speckled or white. Horns are very long and massive (the longest Ankole horns). They have a small cerivco-thoracic hump (Mason and Maule 1960; Rege and Tawah 1999).

Peculiarity: Long, massive horns, medium body size and relatively short neck and weak legs characterises them.

Breed status: The breed in Burundi and Rwanda is under vulnerable category due to conflict and crossbreeding/interbreeding; in DR Congo and Tanzania, not at risk; in South Africa, critical (according to census made in 1998 in South Africa, they were only 80) (DAGRIS 2005).

Utility: Their main uses are milk, meat and work. Total milk yield was estimated to be 500 litres in average lactation length of 240 days (Mason and Maule, 1960). Average milk butterfat content ranged between 4-7%.


DAGRIS, 2005: http://dagris.ilri.cgiar.org

Epstein H. 1971. The origin of the domestic animals of Africa Volume I. Africana Publishing Corporation. New York. London. Munich.

Mason I.L. and Maule J.P. 1960. The indigenous livestock of eastern and Southern Africa. Common wealth Agricultural Bureaux. Farnham Royal, Bucks England.

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 Bulletin26:1-26.

Related Literature

Felius M. 1995. Cattle breeds: an encyclopedia.Misset. Doetinchem (The Netherlands). 799 pp.

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