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Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science

Breeds of Livestock - Ankole Cattle

Breeds of Livestock - Ankole Cattle



Also Known As: Ankole Longhorn Varieties: Bahema, Bashi, Kigezi, Watusi

The Ankole cattle are distributed from Lake Mobutu to Lake Tanganyika in eastern Africa. The original animals were thought to have been brought to northern Uganda by Hamitic tribes sometime between the 13th and 15th centuries. The Ankole's susceptiblity to the tsetse fly forced the tribes and their cattle further south. The Hima or Bahima tribe settled on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzani. The Watusi or Tutsi tribe continued to Rwanda and Burundi with their cattle, some of which have spread to the lake districts of Zaire. Selection in all the tribes is based on horn size.

The purer Ankole cattle have a medium-long head, a short neck with a deep dewlap and a narrow chest. The hump is cervico-thoracic, small and barely visible on the cow. Although the small-uddered Ankole cows yield meager amounts of milk, milking is an important ritual in some tribes. Bloodletting is a common practice. A few tribes use the cattle for work, none use them for meat. In general the animals are highly prized as status symbols, for ceremonial functions and not for their productivity.

Ankole are of the Sanga type, often the coloration is red but fawn, black or pied are not uncommon. This breed was used in the development of the Ankole-Watusi in the United States.

There are three main strains of this breed:
1. Bahema strain: found in Northern Kivu, near Edward and Amin Lakes.
2. Bashi strain: found in Southern Kivu, around Lake Kivu.
3. Tutsi strain: found in Burundi, near the northern part of Tanganika Lake.
The Kigezi strain reported by Mason (1995) is less common.
The size of horns are smaller in the Bahema and the largest horns are found in the Tutsi strain. The color of the Ankole varies but the Tutsi strain is predominately red.



Dr Alberto Zorloni, Ethiopia

Genus Bos: Cattle Breeds of the World, 1985, MSO-AGVET (Merck & Co., Inc.), Rahway, N.J.

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


R. E. McDowell, Professor Emeritus of International Animal Science, Cornell University, and provided by Paul O. Brackelsberg, Professor of Animal Science, Iowa State University

Dr Alberto Zorloni, Ethiopia


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