The robust Sanga: Unveiling the characteristics of Zimbabwe’s indigenous cattle


Zimbabwe's rich agricultural landscape is home to a variety of indigenous cattle, each breed boasting traits that have been honed over millennia to thrive in the African environment. Today, we're diving into the characteristics of the three indigenous Sanga cattle breeds of Zimbabwe: the Mashona, Nkone, and Tuli.

The collective value of these indigenous breeds, especially in the more marginalised areas of Zimbabwe, cannot be overemphasised. Understanding their attributes is crucial for appreciating their role in sustainable beef production, especially under challenging conditions. These breeds are unsung heroes of Zimbabwe's cattle industry, demonstrating enormous potential.

Unmatched adaptation

The Sanga cattle group, consisting of the Mashona, Nkone, and Tuli breeds, represents a lineage well-suited to the varying climates of Zimbabwe. Despite their intrinsic value, there is a knowledge gap regarding the formidable traits of these breeds. Their geographical roots are as varied as the landscape of Zimbabwe itself. The Mashona originate from the north and northeast, the Nkone from the west, northwest, and extreme southeast, while the Tuli hail from the southwest.

Coveted beef production traits

Zimbabwean indigenous cattle breeds shine as beef producers, embodying all the quintessential characteristics sought after by cattlemen and farmers:

  • Beef Quality: Exhibiting excellent beef conformation with a high meat-to-bone ratio.
  • Maintenance: Hardy breeds that are low maintenance.
  • Physical Traits: The bulls display pronounced masculinity, while the cows are noted for their femininity, both in demeanour and appearance.

The resilience factor

Adaptability is the hallmark of these breeds, with traits fine-tuned for survival. All three breeds have high fertility rates and exceptional nurturing skills. They are capable of producing ample milk, resulting in healthy calves. Their herd instincts are exceptional and strong community behaviour provides natural defenses against predators and theft.

Designed for tough environments, every aspect of these cattle breeds is a testament to their resilience. They are renowned for their hardiness and maintain productivity despite arduous conditions. They are docile and their temperament is due to their historical co-existence with humans. However, the females are very protective mothers. When it comes to foraging, they all display exceptional browse utilisation, thriving even when grass is scarce. Another important feature of these breeds is that they have a high resistance to disease and parasites due to their unique physical features such as a sleek hide and a glossy, short and dense coat.

An efficient and sustainable choice

Zimbabwe's indigenous breeds are not just survivors; they are efficient producers. They are all noted for their early maturity and have a long, fruitful life span.

They are perfect for pure breeding but their economic viability comes into its own in cross-breeding programmes as commercial herd “improvers” in beef production. The Mashona and Nkone are small to medium-framed cattle and Tuli have medium to large frames. If the animals are being reared in very tough conditions, the smaller framed breeds are ideal and the medium to large framed animals are ideal for not such harsh conditions.

Given their exceptional characteristics, Zimbabwean indigenous cattle are the ideal choice for farmers. Tuli, Mashona and Nkone cattle are a treasure trove of traits beneficial for our cattle farming. Their resilience, efficiency, and adaptability make them indispensable in the current and future landscape of agriculture under adverse conditions. It is time these breeds gain the recognition they deserve for the sustainability and prosperity of cattle farming in Zimbabwe.

Examples of Mashona Cattle

Photo credit: Maree Osborne - Mashona Cattle Society of Zimbabwe

Examples of Nkone Cattle

Photo credit: George Hulme - Nkone Cattle Breeders Society of Zimbabwe

Examples of Tuli Cattle

Photo credit: Zimbo Tuli Stud

Upcoming Indigenous Breeds Sale to showcase Sanga breeds

The upcoming Zimbabwe National indigenous breeds sale will showcase our unique Mashona, Nkone and Tuli breeds. This is the first time the three Indigenous cattle breed societies have combined to hold a breed sale and it promises to be a very special event.

There will be selected bulls and females for sale from the three adapted Sanga breeds. These will have been approved prior to the auction sale, by the parent breed societies registered by Zimbabwe Herd Book and bred in Zimbabwe.

The sale takes place on Africa Day, May 25, 2024, at 10am.

It will take place at the ADMA Agrishow, ART Farm, Harare.


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  1. Jaime Elizondo on February 9, 2024 at 3:03 pm

    It is so great that you are holding this event. These breeds are needed worldwide to improve resistance, real-life fertility, and low-cost beef production on grass which they will help make more efficient.
    More and more, ranchers and farmers around the world are being exposed to the benefits these breeds can give them in creating their composites tailored for their environment.

    • Staff Writer on February 9, 2024 at 3:57 pm

      Appreciate your support! We’re thrilled to promote breeds that boost sustainability and efficiency. It’s great to see farmers worldwide adapting to these changes.

      Thanks for cheering us on – here’s to a greener future in farming! 🌱 #EcoFriendlyBeef

  2. Larry Mukomber on February 9, 2024 at 5:21 pm

    Hello – how do we get the different breed Societies to come and be at the Bulawayo Agricultural Show / ZITF being held in April in the city of Bulawayo?

    • Staff Writer on February 10, 2024 at 3:08 pm

      Thanks for your comment Larry. The best thing would be to contact the respective breed Societies directly. Most of them are listed on our Agricultural & Breeding Societies page here if you click on the listing of interest you will see the contact information for them. Fingers crossed it works out for you.

      • Talent Nyamuzihwa Rundofa on February 13, 2024 at 10:58 am

        It’s so great and it’s an achievement to have such an event of selling and buying of our indegenous breeds.Thank you guys for organizing such event.Spread the news to every corner of Zimbabwe for the benefits of small holder farmers who need some of these breeds!,thank you!!!

        • Staff Writer on February 13, 2024 at 11:20 am

          Thanks for your kind words Talent. The respective breed societies need to be commended for working together to make this happen. We look forward to the sale and wish them all the success.

  3. John Cambron on April 5, 2024 at 5:38 pm

    Is anyone in the United States currently breeding Tuli’s? I haven’t had any luck coming up with anyone as of today. Thank you

    • Staff Writer on April 8, 2024 at 10:27 am

      Hello John Thanks for your question. I am going to ask around – I don’t know of anyone off the top of my head. If I hear of anything I will update here. Thanks David

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