By Ronald Ssekandi SEMBABULE, Uganda (Xinhua)
-- Revered for its long horns, the
Ankole cattle are sacred animals in rural western Uganda and
parts of neighboring Rwanda. The status of an individual among
the tribesmen depended on the number and beauty of the cattle
“They are very
beautiful to look at especially when they are very big in
number. They are seen as wealth,” Fidel Ruzindazi, a 70-year-old
cattle keeper in the central Ugandan district of Sembabule told
Xinhua in a recent interview.
Among the Bahima
tribesmen, the Ankole longhorn cattle functioned as dowry, and
were used to strengthen friendship, resolve conflicts and
cleansing sins. Their hides were used for making clothes, mats
and beddings. The horns were used to make beads and trumpets
Their urine was used
to clean containers for churning milk and keeping yogurt. Their
milk, according to scientists, has high fat content and the meat
is low in cholesterol which makes them healthier and more
nutritious to consume compared to exotic breeds.
The ghee from the
cows is served as a special sauce and the Bahima used to make
bread and gravy from the cows’ blood.
Over time, however,
it is becoming increasingly hard to keep the longhorn cattle as
they graze in large areas. The increasing human population,
among other factors, has reduced the grazing land available for
Many of the herders
have been forced to sell off some of their Longhorn cattle and
switch to grazing smaller herds of exotic and hybrid breeds. The
exotic breeds produce more milk, meat and need less land to
graze on, thus bringing in more income.
“Even those who
traditionally liked the cows are now losing that hope because
the grazing land is getting smaller,” Ruzindazi said.
Experts are however
warning that if this breeding program continues, it will lead to
the extinction of the indigenous breed. Along with the loss of
the breed, cultural traditions and indigenous knowledge about
animal breeding are likely to disappear.
The persistent harsh
climate change effects that have hit Uganda in recent years have
perturbed herders on whether to continue with the exotic breeds
or return to the longhorn cattle that can withstand the effects.
The persistent long
dry spells come with diseases that exotic breeds cannot
withstand. This has forced farmers to resort to using
antibiotics and acaricides to treat their exotic breeds. This
reduces their profit margins.
that this has forced some herders to resort to crop farming
instead of rearing cattle.
Yoweri Museveni, himself a cattle keeper, has favored keeping
the longhorn cows as opposed to exotic breeds, noting that the
indigenous breeds can survive on poor quality vegetation and
live off limited amounts of water in times of long dry spells.