Breeds of Cattle in Nigeria & Their Characteristics

Cattle rearing is quite popular in Nigeria. In this post, we have put together breeds of cattle in Nigeria and their characteristics. Some of these cows are unique to Nigeria, while there are others that can be found in other parts of Africa.

But before we take a look at these breed, let’s take a brief look at the history of cow.

The history of domesticated cattle can be traced to 6,500 B.C in Turkey and other sites in the Near East. Interestingly, some authorities date the domestication of cattle as early as 10,000 years ago, and others almost half that amount of time. Regardless of the time frame it is generally accepted that the domestication of cattle followed sheep, goats, pigs and dogs.

The early cattle served a triple-purpose. They provided meat, milk and labor to their owners. Eventually their draft purposes were largely replaced by horses and much later by machinery so they were selected more for single or in some cases dual purposes.

In Nigeria, there are several popular cow breeds in Nigeria and these cows are bred for different purposes. They have different characteristics, which make every breed special and useful in country. The individual farmers and state farms types are the most popular breed of cows. Some of them are bred and reared for the sake of meat while others are known by the quantity and quality of milk they produce. There are also breeds that have the features of both types provide milk and meat in equal proportions.

The beef cow breeds include the Boran, Muturu, and N’Dama. These breeds are widely distributed in southern Nigeria. The body measurements exhibited highly significant differences between the breeds as to body weight, wither height, and body length. The constants are presented for estimating the body weight of these breeds from their heart girth and body length under Nsukka conditions. They can be used for measurements in inches (yielding the body weight in lbs) or in cm (body weight in kg).


Generally, the most popular cow breeds in Nigeria include:

This is one of the breeds much loved by the Fulani tribe in Nigeria. The main purpose of this cow type is their ability to produce meat. The animals are recognized by their typical reddish coat colors and long horns. The breed is used to living in the southeast of Nigeria in the conditions of heat and long months of drought. These animals are able to survive about half of a year of heavy rains and then long months without rainfall. Within this time, they eat mature grass, leaves from trees, and shrubs. These cows are also known for their ability to walk long distances in herds.

  • N’Dama or Boyenca, Malike, Mandingo

Originating from Guinea, these cows can be seen all around Africa, from the north to the south. The breed is trypanotolerant, which is an important characteristic for African cattle. These cows are highly popular in the regions that are heavily infested by tse-tse fly. These cows are quite small in size but their carcass to meat ratio makes about 50%. This is why they are among the most popular cow breeds for meat, which is low-fat and has pleasant flavor. These cows also give milk but quite little – about 2 to 3 liters a day through 7 to 8 months. These cows are recognized by their horns of lyre shape, low height, and light sandy colors with quite short and thin hair. Image source: Source: UGC

  • White Fulani or Bunaji

This breed of cows is determined by their wide-set long horns and the light colors of their skin. They originate from West Africa and are native to Nigeria and its neighboring countries. These animals are mainly bred for their meat and milk but sometimes also for drafting abilities. These cows can lactate for about 220 days in a year. This is why they are among the most popular cow breeds for milk. The value of the breed is in the fact that these cows are more resistant to the sun and heat than some other popular Nigerian breeds. They have long durable legs that allow them cross long distances. They are less vulnerable to dermatophilosis, unlike other Nigerian breeds, and to internal parasites. They die rarely and are, in general, quite durable to the climate and harsh living conditions.

There are two main sub-breeds within a bigger one. Some of these cows live in savannah and thus are somewhat taller than the forest ones but even with this, the Muturu breed is the shortest cow breed ever known.

  • Muturu

Muturu males are 95cm high and females are about 88cm. Forest cows are normally black and savannah ones develop black and white coloring. These cows are mainly bred for meat and for farm work. They are rarely milked because the amount is quite small even during the highest milking season. At the same time, this breed is able to give a pretty good amount of meat. They propagate quickly and are trypanotolerant. These features make them a valuable breed for Nigeria and other regions in Africa.

  • Sokoto Gudali