Size & Mass
Bulls are of medium size weighing 500 - 800 kg. The average shoulder height of Phase C bulls (=15 months) is + 120cm. Cows are smallish and weigh 300 - 480 kg. Their body length is + 130 cm and height at shoulder + 119 cm.
Horns are crescent-shaped in bulls and characteristically lyre-shaped, thinner and longer in mature females. They are round in cross-section and dark, especially at the tips.
The hump is situated cervico-thoracially and is muscular in structure. The size and shape of the hump is reasonably well developed in bulls especially after 3 years, but in females is only evidence in individual animals in good condition.
Hide & Hair
The Nguni has a well-pigmented, motile hide of medium thickness and the coat is short, fine and glossy (oily). The coat patterns are legion and warrant a separate descriptive catalogue but black, red, dun, roan, speckled and patched animals are acceptable. Poor and unpigmented animals are discriminated against.
The majority of Nguni cattle have pigmented hides and dark, if not black, hooves and muzzles. The coat shows a variety of colours which may appear as whole colours, mixed colours or as specific colour patterns.Six whole coat colours under which white (Umhlope), black (Mnyama), Brown (Emfusi), Red (Embomvu), Dun (Mdaka) and Yellow (Mpofu) exist in Nguni cattle, while eight colour patterns occur. The Zulu names appear in brackets. Besides the fact that there are theoretically 48 colour patterns the Zulu and Swazi people describe 77 different colour patterns in order to ease identification and ownership of cattle. These different colours and colour patterns are playing a very important role in the social and cultural life of the African people.
There is no doubt that the variety of colours, and the combination thereof, have something to do with the excellent adaptability of the breed under the high temperature and dry or humid climatic conditions of Southern Africa.The colourful red and white speckled animals are the most popular animals. However, the inheritance of Nguni cattle are somewhat complicated which makes it impossible to select solely for a certain favourable colour. The Nguni hides have very impressive and attractive colour patterns and can therefore be sold as a byproduct to be used for fashion articles.
Adaptability and Hardness
Having survived many years of exposure to climatic and other environmental extremes such as internal and external parasites, suboptimal grazing conditions and primitive management practices the Nguni has developed as a heat tolerant, disease and tick resistant breed.
Nguni cattle seems to be the most fertile beef breed in Southern Africa (and most probably in the world). Nguni cows registered at the Namibian Stud Breeders Association obtained an average inter calving period (ICP) of 402 days despite the severe drought conditions experienced during the nineties.
Ease of Calving
Ngunis calve easily. Calves of both sexes are small at birth weighing 26kg on average or 7.5% of the mothers' mass. Calving difficulties are also extremely rare due to conformational features such as the sloping rump in females and the significant maternal restriction on birth mass.