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Uchibidolo : the abundant herds : a descriptive study of the Sanga-Nguni cattle of the Zulu people, with special reference to colour-pattern terminology and naming-practice.


Sanga-Nguni cattle have been present in Southern Africa for more than seven hundred years. They are the cattle traditionally owned by the Zulu people and have always been of great cultural and economic significance. They are distinguished by their hardiness and adaptability and are characterised by the great variety of their colours and patterns. This dissertation is a study of Sanga-Nguni cattle with special reference to colour pattern terminology and naming-practice in Zulu. More than three hundred terms in Zulu denote colour-pattern, horn-shape and type of beast. There are also a great number of terms for animals used for ritual purposes, especially those connected with the practice of ukulobola, in which cattle are exchanged during marriage negotiations. Many of these names, particularly those which refer to colour-pattern, are richly metaphorical, using imagery and analogy which connect the cattle with the birds, animals and plants that share their environment. Both archival and field sources have been employed to document as many of these names as possible and to classify them according to cultural significance, type, colour-pattern configuration and metaphorical content. Cattle names cannot be appreciated in isolation and in order to understand the complexity of the Zulu terminology, the significance of cattle in the cultural and economic life of the Zulu people as well as their biology and history has also been described. 'Cattle lore' concerning beliefs about cattle and perceptions of them in the cosmology of the Zulu people are recorded. The role of cattle in the oral tradition and cattle imagery in proverbs, poetry and tales as well as the praises of cattle themselves, have been explored in overview and provide insight into how the Zulu people perceive their herds. The dissertation is divided into four sections: i) Research setting ii) Pastoralism in Zulu society iii) Colour-pattern terminology and related naming-practice iv) perceptions of cattle and the role of cattle in the oral tradition. Although this is a primarily a language study, the subject of which is the documenting and analysis of the vast range of cattle terms found in Zulu, it is also a study of the role of cattle in Zulu society and their significance in the thought patterns of the people who own them and with whom they have lived in such close contact for so many centuries.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1996.


Nguni cattle., Zulu language--Etymology--Names., Onomastics., Theses--IsiZulu.