Cows are one of the most common types of livestock, providing meat, milk, and more for us humans to survive. Though there are a variety of breeds with distinctive features—black Angus, Texas longhorn, and Highland cattle, to name a few—the animals all look similar enough, for the most part.
But there’s one variety of cattle whose appearance is anything but common, and when you see what it looks like, you’ll have to do a double-take!
Meet the Ankole-Watusi, also known as the Ankole Longhorn.
This unique-looking cow is known for its enormous horns, which are some of the largest in the world.
When measuring from one tip to the other, their horns can actually span up to 8 feet. That’s taller than the average man!
The horns are used for defense, but they also help regulate the animal’s internal temperature.
Blood vessels inside the horns help with circulation and cool down the cow when it gets overheated.
This internal thermometer comes in handy in the Ankole-Watusi’s native home of Africa.
The cattle’s unusual name comes from the people who inhabit the regions where it originated.
The variety of cow found in Uganda, for instance, is called the Ankole, after the Nkole tribe.
In Rwanda, the Tutsi people developed the name Watusi for their local variety.
The cows are an indicator of wealth and tribal status.
As a result, those with the largest horns were owned by kings.
Since ancient times, the Ankole-Watusi have been considered sacred.
Because the wealth of their owners was determined by the number of live cattle, these cows are rarely used for meat.
Instead, their owners try to get the maximum amount of milk from their livestock.
Because the Ankole-Watusi don’t produce much milk in general, early owners came up with a special milking process.
The female cow is left to graze all day, then brought home to her calf.
The calf suckles briefly to stimulate milk production, but then he’s taken away.
The owner then milks the cow immediately.
After hand-milking has been completed, the calf suckles more before being separated from its mother again.
This process repeats every day, but due to the low nourishment of calves, many young Ankole-Watusi die before they reach adulthood.
Adult Watusi can weigh between 900 and 1,600 pounds, larger than most other types of cattle.
Newborn calves, however weigh just 30 to 50 pounds.
So the Ankole-Watusi developed an advanced way to protect their young.
At night, the entire herd all sleeps together.
They sleep in a circle, with the calves in the middle and the adults surrounding them for greater security.
Luckily, adult Ankole-Watusi can survive on very few nutrients.
They live in savannas and open fields and eat mostly grass and leaves.
Their stomachs are resilient, meaning they can still become nourished even when there isn’t much to eat.
In the 1960s, the cattle first reached the United States.
Today they can be found all over the world.
Sadly, African populations are decreasing due to the introduction of more disease-prone Holstein cattle to the continent.
But worldwide, the Ankole-Watusi are in no danger of becoming extinct.
In 2004, a US bull named CT Woodie won the Guinness World Record for largest horn circumference at 40.75 inches.
That record still stands today!
After having survived for so long, here’s hoping the Ankole-Watusi and their majestic horns will continue to thrive for years to come!
Have you ever seen anything like this before? It wouldn’t be any surprise if their heads get tired from holding up those heavy horns all day long!
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