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The thousands of years of natural evolution that were the cornerstone of these cattle had given them a toughness and strength that was hard to better, while the quality of their beef and milk competed very well with those produced from other imported breeds.

Harvey named them Tuli, both after the place, and because many of them were the colour of the red sand of the Tuli River, and this indigenous Zimbabwean breed was officially registered in 1955.  Harvey was awarded an MBE in 1962, acknowledging his important contribution to agriculture.

In 1976 the first Tulis were imported into South Africa, and since then, this incredible breed, with its roots firmly in southern Africa, has spread to Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Australia, the USA, Canada, Argentina and Mexico.

The History of the Tuli Breed
Tuli Cattle have a very long and fascinating history on our African continent.  No wonder they are so hardy and well adapted to our often harsh conditions! 

You may already know that cattle as a whole have been domesticated for around 10 000 years, first records of this domestication tracing its origin back to the Middle East.

The roots of our superb Tuli Breed can in turn be found in a group of cattle breeds under the umbrella name of Sanga cattle, which encompasses the various permutations of indigenous cattle occurring today across sub-Saharan Africa. 

Sanga cattle date back an extremely long way – over 5000 years!  They are the result of cross-breeding which occurred naturally over these thousands of years between Zebu Cattle and indigenous African cattle.

Zebu cattle came originally from India, evolving from the Auroch, which is the ancient wild cattle species to which we owe all domesticated cattle, being its precursor before domestication first began.

The Zebu arrived on our continent with Arab nomads who came in via North Africa, way back in the 7th century AD.  Africa had her own indigenous Auroch cattle and the Zebus and Aurochs interbred.   The last African Aurochs are assumed to have gone extinct back in the Middle Ages.

From this interbreeding came the various cattle breeds falling under the description of Sanga, and these and Zebu cattle gradually spread southwards down the African continent, with migrants and nomads. 

One of the breeds falling under the description, Sanga, is the Tswana – a very tough, hardy cattle breed.  With this general movement of cattle southwards over the ages, came the arrival of Tswana cattle in Zimbabwe.  Over several hundred years, the Tswana cattle adapted more and more to the challenging climate and often harsh conditions. 

They became even more robust and drought tolerant and as time went by, became able quickly to adjust to eating unfamiliar food when normal sources of nutrition were scarce or unavailable.  They also became resilient in the face of parasites and diseases. They often had to scavenge for food, covering great distances, and their legs got stronger and thicker over time, their hooves harder, and they became better and better at tolerating extremely hot conditions. 

The result of all these conditions to which this evolving breed adapted over the millennia, was a breed of cattle that was about as robust, hardy and tough as they can come!

The Matabele people recognised the breed’s many highly advantageous characteristics and began to breed them more selectively, choosing the more docile animals.  With further enhancement and refinement at the hand of humans, the stage was now set!  These cattle are the foundation on which the Tuli Cattle Breed was built. 

The Tuli date back to the early 1940s and owe their name to a place: Tuli, in Matabeleland, in the south west part of Zimbabwe, where climatic conditions are particularly harsh.  Here, a South African called Len Harvey, noting the exceptional qualities of the Tswana cattle, as bred and further enhanced by the Matabele people, started to build an indigenous domestic breed of cattle. 

His aim was to develop a breed that would still produce good food and dairy produce for local communal farmers, despite the tough climatic conditions in the area.  Harvey worked with the Tswana breed, and others breeds under the Sanga umbrella, selecting for high fertility, robustness, adaptability and toughness, creating the Tuli Breeding Station on a farm in Gwanda, under the auspices of the government, for whose Agricultural Department he worked. 

The resultant cattle towards the end of the 1940s began to win at agricultural shows nationwide, even while competing with the various breeds out of Europe that had histories of more than 300 years of formal breeding management. 

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