By Otushabire Tibyangye
Ankole cattle dates back many hundreds of years and its ancestry can be traced back to Europe and Asia as early as 15000 BC. Today Ankole cattle are distributed mostly from Lake Mobutu to Lake Tanganyika in eastern Africa.
They are very hardy animals and can live in very poor conditions with little water and poor grazing. Ankole cattle have a medium-long head, a short neck with a deep dewlap and a narrow chest.
The cattle plays a vital role in the lives of the Banyankore people in South-western region of Uganda as it is regarded as a symbol of wealth, used for bride-price, provides source of livelihood and food among others.
Their horns are extremely long and grow outward on either side of the head. They also have fairly large ears through which they lose heat. Most often the coloration is red but fawn, black or pied are not uncommon
Three meat studies have been done in the last 10 years, and the results have been good for the breed. Ankole meat has been demonstrated to be of low fat and to have lower cholesterol than other commercial beefs. These studies are continuing for some time. The milk has a high butter content compared only to the Boran animal in the east African region
Majority families in Ankole keep the beautiful animals, which provide hides used in the leather industry, meat, horns are used for making ornaments like bracelets and buttons , hooves are used in the glue industry.
Other products from milk are ghee (amajuta), yoghurt (amakamo) and butter. Amajuta is used in making the eshabwe a traditional dish relished by the locals. Eshabwe has made it to international menus of big hotels like Sheraton in Kampala.
Each animal is given a name according to its generation while others are given according to the colour, others are named after the shape of the horns and the type of sports on the body or neck or the forehead.Some of the names are Njeru for the white ones, Kisa for white, Bihogo for dark brown, Gaju for reddy brown, Siina for light brown, Ngabo for white and black, brown and other colors respectively. Others are Ngoobe with brindles, Kyozi for pure black and Ruhuzimu for grey.
However most cattle keepers prefer Bihogo and sincerely it is a beautiful color. The bull is commonly known as engundu and is used as a symbol by many establishments in the region ranging from schools, to local governments, while the cows heifer commonly known as enyena and ejigiza one which has already given birth.
These animals have a history dating back to the days of the Chwezi dynasty. Among the legacies of the Chwezi dynasty that are still livings are the Ankole long horned cattle, iron works, bark cloth manufacture, coffee growing and the board game of Omwesho. These are very common in Ankole and have been adopted in other areas.
As you leave Masaka heading for Ankole you will encounter herds of these beautiful animals along the roadside and they roam the cattle corridor of Ankole and Kigezi regions.
However there is need to preserve this beautiful animal because of cross-breeding we are likely to lose the original animal.