The Ankole-Watusi cattle breed otherwise known as the Ankole longhorn is a cattle breed originally found on the savannas of the African continent.
The breed is renowned for its definitive large horns occasionally seen at a width of as much as 8 feet between the tips and are generally used as a defensive measure and formidable weapon against other animals.
These massive horns which have occasionally been seen as ornaments additionally serve the Watusi cattle breed by actively dispersing heat from within its body allowing the breed to adapt to climatic conditions within several regions affected by severe heat enabling the breed to survive during long drought periods.
The Watusi breed cattle when mature is seen as a medium built breed with the average Watusi cow weighing between 950 to 1,200 pounds or 430 to 540 kilograms often giving birth to newborn calves weighing just about 30 to 50 pounds or 14 to 23 kilograms.
The typical Watusi breed bull will weigh between 1,200 to 1,600 pounds or 540 to 730 kilograms. The low birthrate of the Watusi newborn calves has allowed the Watusi breed bulls to be used in crossbreeding first-calf-heifers of other cattle breeds.
The calves of the Watusi cattle breeds will generally sleep together with a close relative cow during the daytime with the entire herd sleeping together at nights grouping the young calves within the center of the herd providing protection.
The Watusi cattle breed often referred to as the Ankole breed have been found to be found to be descendants of the indigenous breed of cattle from the sub-Saharan regions of Africa known as the Sanga cattle and are mainly found grazing in the open grasslands and savannas on leaves and grass.
The Watusi cattle breed have been known for their high efficiency to exploit limited amounts of food, water and substandard forage unsuitable to other cattle breeds.
These traits have allowed the Watusi cattle breed to effectively survive not only in the regions of Africa but also to be recognized and adopted by several countered across the globe including Australia, Europe, South America and the United Stated of America.
Prehistoric illustrations and rock paintings of the Watusi cattle breed have been found within the Egyptian arts engraved on the walls of the pyramids within the Sahara regions.
The Sanga cattle breed of which the Watusi share the similar linage were found scattered across Uganda, Sudan, Kenya and a number of regions located in eastern Africa thus becoming the foundation stock for many of the locally bred African cattle breeds.
The Sanga cattle breed was observed to display highly similar traits to the traditional Zebu breed including the distinctively large neck hump, upturned horns and a sagging dewlap and penile sheath. Many of the descendants of the Sanga cattle breed found today are seen to vastly vary in their size, shape and horns as a result of the diverse influence on the breed within different tribes found in Africa.
These amazing and exceptional cattle breeds are found in Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda. In Rwanda the Watusi breed is commonly known as the Isanga cattle which meant “the ones which were found”.
In the landlocked country of Uganda the Sanga cattle bred by the Ankole or Nkole tribesmen are traditionally called Ankole cattle. While south of Rwanda within the central African country of Burundi the Sanga cattle bred by the Tutsi tribe is also known as the Watusi cattle where they are generally owned by the tribe’s kings and chiefs.
The Watusi cattle breed which was once considered a sacred cattle breed was reported by several tribes as now extinct. The cattle were bred mainly as source of dairy milk to its owners rather than for the production of beef as the wealth of the African tribesmen was determined by the amount of livestock he possessed.
Traditionally the Watusi cow bred for the production of milk is grazed during the day and brought to her calf in the evenings. During this period the Watusi cow is allowed a brief moment to breastfeed her young calf so as to trigger the release of milk thus allowing her to be milked.
After the milking process has been successfully completed, the calf is once again allowed to suckle after which the cow is separated from her calf. This process of milking is repeated the following morning.
The lactation period of the average Watusi cow is quite short when compared to the traditional breed as the typical Watusi breed cow will only produce a maximum of 8 pints of milk.
This trait has often resulted in the severe undernourishment of the young calves leading to high death rates.
The African government over the last decade has made several attempts in identifying more suitable breeds for the production of milk and better quality of beef however their efforts have been restricted due to conflicting traditional practices among the tribes in addition to instances of disease and famine.
The Watusi cattle breed have been of crucial importance in the traditions and lives of many of the local African tribes today such as the Bakiga, Ankole, Bashi, Kivu, Bahima and the Tutsi which have been most linked to the Watusi cattle.
The breed has been actively used as a form of currency in trading, a source of food and a means to establish tribe status among various tribesmen. The Watusi cattle observed with the longest horns were considered highly sacred and were owned solely by the tribal kings where they were often referred to as the Cattle of Kings among tribesmen.
In the 1960s the Walter Schultz introduced the Watusi cattle breed within the United States of America when he imported two bulls from the peninsula of Scandinavia along with a cow from Europe.
Today through the dedicated efforts of several private breeders of the Watusi cattle, varying associations and public zoos, the breed has been successfully removed from the endangered species list.
The World Watusi Association is one of the many non-profit organizations consisting of a large number of members across the United States and Canada dedicating their time and efforts to preserving the Watusi cattle breeds across the world. Through their website they provide an active list of breeders where cattle men can purchase their seed stock to start or develop their herds.
Individuals can additionally purchase stock for their herds from a number of ranches including:
Lazy B Farm Texas located in Pittsburg Texas.
Ross Ranch Horns located in the piney woods of East Texas.