African cattle breeds are astonishingly diverse, and often quite beautiful. They range from the dark-red Ankole of southern Uganda, with their massive heat-dissipating horns, to the Boran which thrive in the dusty plains of northern Kenya, to Ethiopia’s sturdy Mursi cattle, with their prominent shoulder humps and hanging dewlaps. The Kuri that graze on the grasses of Lake Chad are adept swimmers; the Red Fulani can trudge vast distances along the margins of the Sahara; and the famously disease-resistant Sheko inhabit tsetse fly-infested forests of southwest Ethiopia.
All billion or so cattle today descend from ancient aurochs, an extinct species of wild cattle that once inhabited large swaths of Eurasia. These cattle were domesticated on at least two distinct occasions approximately 10,000 years ago during the Neolithic era: once in south Asia – leading to the zebu or humped cattle – and the other in the Middle East – leading to the taurine or humpless cattle.