The Zulu sheep, known as izimvu in local dialect, first appeared on the eastern coast of the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal around 1,800 to 2,000 years ago. During the Iron Age, some North African populations migrated here, bringing with them the Nguni sheep breed, the ancestor of the Zulu sheep, as well as the Swazi and Pedi breeds. For a long time the sheep provided an important source of food for the local inhabitants. Today, however, crosses with more productive breeds and the fragmentation of the flocks have seriously threatened its survival, leading to a drastic drop in the number of surviving animals. Protecting the Zulu sheep is fundamental to safeguarding the area’s biodiversity. In a region dominated by fields of genetically modified corn and sugar-cane monocultures, the sheep farmers continue to cultivate local varieties in order to feed their flocks. Agile, of medium-small size, the Zulu sheep looks similar to a goat, and has meat that is compact, savory, flavorful and lean. The sheep is characterized by its small ears, similar to those of a mouse, and its coat can be black, white, brown or beige. The sheep has fat stores in its tail and body which are essential to its survival in the area, which has a hot, damp climate and is often prone to drought. Thanks to its hardiness, this breed needs little veterinary care and resists parasites and insects. Suited to life in flocks, the sheep graze outdoors all year round. The animals are only brought into sheds at night, to protect them from predators. There are certain social and spiritual values attached to the Zulu sheep and it is an essential element in the traditional rituals of the indigenous population. Traditionally a sheep is sacrificed in a village where someone has committed suicide to prevent any more suicides. It also has an important role in traditional medicine, and its fat is used as a sedative in cases of aggressiveness or hyperactivity.Back to the archive >
local and national authorities regarding the importance of this breed for both biodiversity
and livelihood security.
The Presidiium is working to safeguard and promote the agricultural wealth of the area through the cultivation of indigenous seeds (sorghum, corn, melons, bean varieties) and indigenous animal breeds.
Kwazulu-Natal province, Zululand district
Clynton Kelly - Creighton - tel. +278 28203212
Bev Tarboton - Drumond - tel. +278 33718164
Rob Symons and Nora Shoveaux - Pietermaritzburg - tel. + 278 24956249
Richard Phillip Haigh
tel. +278 28722049