I’ve been a patron at Nguni Restaurant for some years now, but I never really took the time to find out what the unusual word ‘Nguni’ means and where it originated. So for your, and my sake, I thought I’d do a little research and establish some facts and give you some interesting insights that you can proudly relay to your party on your next visit to this African dining institution.
Nguni cattle are a breed of cow that derive their name from the tribes of Africa, collectively known as the Nguni people. It’s believed their existence began some 8000 years ago. As this nomadic tribe migrated south into Africa, they took their cattle along with them.
Through natural selection and environmental interaction, the cattle evolved into the hardy breed we know today as the Nguni. As the tribes settled in different areas, distinctive cattle ecotypes developed, but are essentially still Nguni’s.
The Nguni is a breed that has adapted to the African environment over many years and therefore displays functional characteristics. It is slightly smaller in size compared to the large beef breeds of other countries, but this just enables it to live in the Highveld regions of Africa.
Bulls are medium-sized and weigh between 500kg and 600kg. They are muscular and display typical male characteristics with well-developed, muscular, cervicothoracic humps, which mean that the hump is in front of the foreleg. The scrotum is well developed with good pigmentation and thermo-regulatory function – which is always good to know.
The cows are small and weigh between 300kg and 400kg. They are feminine with sleek, delicate lines around the neck and forequarter and a prominent wedge shape with the weight in the stomach and hindquarter area. The sloping rump is a distinctive characteristic of the Nguni cow and ensures ease of calving. The udder is small to medium, well attached with small, functional teats.
Horn shapes and hide patterns are varied and no two animals are alike which has its own attraction and the cause of this breed being so distinctive from other breeds. Their hide is sleek and glossy to prevent ticks from attaching themselves to the animal. The legs and hoofs are strong to enable the animal to walk and climb to find enough grazing. The tail is thin and flexible with a full brush and extends to below the hock. Nguni is known for its good temperament.
The Nguni can be fattened on natural grazing and performs well in the feedlot, producing quality carcasses with an even distribution of fat and excellent marbling, finished carcasses dress out at roughly 180-220 kg.
So the next time you’re sitting around a table at Nguni’s restaurant and someone offers up the question, ‘Where does the name Nguni come from,’, you will be able to jump in and regale your knowledge, impressing your dining partners to boot!