The Nguni derives from primitive cattle domesticated in North Africa and is likely to derive from what could be considered an African taurine with a slight Zebu influence. African records show that the Nguni were present at the Nile Valley and migrated south with their owners the Xhosa, Zulu and Swazi people. During this migration the breed was under severe stress and had to adapt to a wide range of climates and environments and survive several tropical diseases. By 300 BC they were found in Zambia and by 300 AD the Nguni reached southern Africa where it is still found today. Natural selection ensured that only the hardiest, toughest and animals suited to harsh environments survived.
The Nguni's profile shows that it was developed under natural selection in the challenging African environment rather than artificial selection done by humankind in early Europe. The Nguni has developed a certain measure of tick tolerance and disease resistance.
It is a small to medium frame breed with low birth weights and low calf mortality. This is ascribed to the excellent mothering ability of Nguni cows.
The summer rainfall areas of South Africa have abundant grass for grazing in summer but during winter this is a dry harsh environment. The indigenous Nguni has the ability to maintain its condition on the veld in winter. Its small-frame, walking ability and the ability to upkeep blood-urea levels even when the grass quality decreases in winter helps it to survive and thrive in these conditions. They can also tolerate extreme temperatures and climate changes. The indigenous Nguni is docile but alert when it comes to temperament.
The Nguni sports a beautiful and valuable hide and the famous warrior and Zulu king, Shaka, bred Ngunis according to pattern and colour for the different regiments in his army. The unique patterned hide of each Nguni and its adaptability sets it apart from other breeds in a class of its own.