A landrace breed of cattle originally native to Africa. Its large distinctive horns that can reach up to 8 ft from tip to tip are used for defense and cooling by honeycombs of blood vessels. Ankole-Watusis weigh from 900 to 1,600 pounds.
Living in the savannas and open grasslands, their diet consists of grass and leaves. The variety is sometimes known as Ankole or Watusi, and is a type of Sanga cattle.
Ancient rock paintings and depictions of Ankole-Watusi cattle have been observed in the Sahara region and in the Egyptian arts and pyramid walls. The variety called the Sanga has spread to the Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and other parts of eastern Africa, becoming the base stock of many of the indigenous African populations. The Sanga demonstrated most of the typical Zebu characteristics, such as pendulous dewlap and sheath, upturned horns, and a neck hump of variable size. Modern descendants of the Sanga, however, vary greatly in size, conformation, and horns, due to differing selection pressures by different tribes.
Particularly remarkable are the cattle found in Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. In Uganda, the Nkole tribe's Sanga variety is known as the Ankole. In Rwanda and Burundi, the Tutsi tribe's Sanga variety is called the Watusi. The Rwanda common strain of Watusi is called Inkuku. The giant-horned strain, owned by the Tutsi kings and chiefs, is called the Inyambo, though some current tribal reports claim that this type is now extinct. Traditionally, Ankole-Watusi were considered sacred. They supplied milk to the owners, but were only rarely used for meat production, since an owner's wealth was counted in live animals.
Ankole-Watusi have played a pivotal role in the lives of various African tribes – Tutsi, Ankole, Bahima, Bashi, Bakiga, and Kivu. The cattle provided food, currency, and tribal status. In Rwanda, where the Tutsi ruled, Watusi were known as Insanga, "the ones which were found" and Inyambo, "the cows with long, long horns". Those with the largest and longest horns belonged to the king and were considered sacred, with some individuals having horns that measure 12 ft from tip to tip. The breed is often referred to as the "Cattle of Kings".
Watusi cattle first arrived in the United States in the 1960s, when Walter Schultz imported two bulls from Scandinavia and a female from Europe. Due to the efforts of private breeders, zoos, and associations, this variety is no longer endangered. However, in his book Uganda: The land and its people, Godfrey Mwakikagile states that the breed's pure genetics are under heavy stress through cross-breeding with Holsteins insofar that the breed may disappear altogether in Africa. This was caused by the introduction of the highly milk-productive Holstein breed by the Heifer International program. These Holsteins need medical support and are susceptible to disease. The indigenous Ankole breed is fully adapted to the region's climatical conditions; their horns – often seen as ornaments – actually disperse heat. They are much more able to cope with adverse local conditions such as drought, while the Holsteins are consuming unsustainable amounts of dwindling resources.
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