Watusi cattle can trace their lineage back over 6,000 years. They are sometimes called “the cattle of kings”. Long-horned cattle without humps similar to the Watusi appear in Egyptian hieroglyphics dating back to 4000 B.C. These “Egyptian Longhorns” would eventually make their way south throughout the rest of the African continent.
The Egyptian Longhorns were eventually bred with humped cattle (Zebu) originating from India and Pakistan. This produced the Sanga breed, on which the Watusi is based. The name Ankole comes from the Nkole tribe in Uganda, while the name Watusi comes from the Tutsi tribe in Rwanda and Burundi. Both tribes are known for their remarkable strains of Sanga cattle.
The large-horned Watusis were owned by the kings and chiefs of the Tutsi tribe, which is where the name “cattle of kings” derives from. Ankole-Watusi were considered sacred, and used for milk, but very seldom for meat.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Watusi cattle were sent to European zoos as a novelty, due to their distinctive giant horns. Soon after, they were sent to American zoos as well. Eventually, zoos began to focus less on novelty animals and more on conservation, so animals like the Watusi fell out of favor. The cattle in zoos were then sold off, and the Watusi breed as it is known today began to take root among American breeders.