Gobra or Senegalese zebu (bos taurus) is a species of cow raised in Senegal for its meat and milk by the Fulana people, a nomadic ethnic group from western Africa. The Fulana breed animals and trade in the semi-desert region in the north-east of the country’s Ferlo region. Originally from India, this species arrived in Senegal during the great migrations of the Semitic peoples from the East, and is raised today much the same as it was centuries ago. The animals are still periodically moved over several kilometers, in search of the few available pastures and natural water springs.
The gobra is a large animal that can weigh between 300 and 400 kg. Some of the distinguishing characteristics are a hump, a large dewlap, long ears, and horns that are often quite arched, in the form of a lyre. The animal’s skin is thick, while the coat is short and white. Thanks to well developed sweat glands, the gobra can withstand hot and humid climates, and it is also quite resistant to parasites. An extremely hearty and resistant beast, the gobra can travel long distances without food or water, and is thus perfectly adapted to the arid lands of Senegal.
The milk is sometimes used to make curds, butter and cheese that, when not used for personal consumption, are traded for grains or sold in local markets, thus providing a source of income for Fulana women. The meat is delicious, succulent and tender thanks to the fact that the cattle are raised free-range and slaughtered at a young age.
In Senegal, nomadic animal breeding is threatened by the government’s policies which do not guarantee sufficient investment to promote it. What’s more, since 1960, when Senegal became independent, land grabbing for new farming lands has reduced the areas that were once used for nomadic breeding. Climate change has also had a negative impact on the raising of gobra, which was already threatened by more modern breeding practices which prefer foreign breeds that are more productive.