LONG, wide, curly, straight or curved: the horns adorning the cattle that feature in photographer-writer Daniel Naudé’s dramatically handsome coffee-table book are as spectacular and distinctive as hairstyles or gowns at any red-carpet event.
South African Naudé captures with exquisite artistry the grandeur, grit and grace of his continent’s native breeds, beginning with the traditional Ugandan Ankole.
In its homeland the Ankole is critically endangered, not in the 21st century by trophy hunting – although its outrageously oversized horns are an obvious prize – but by crossbreeding with milk-rich imported Holsteins and wild plains buffalo.
Naudé sets his pen-portrait of present-day Ankole against the void left by the loss of the Watusi (neighbouring Rwanda’s equivalent), the now-extinct cattle whose horns were known to span up to three metres.
Today, populations of Ankole have been established on reserves in an attempt to protect this cultural icon from annihilation.
Off Africa’s east coast Naudé finds on Madagascar another eye-catching breed: the African-Indian humped Zebu.
Living in isolation on the island, the Zebu faces no threat of outbreeding; as the only bovine strain present, it is guaranteed a continuing pure bloodline.
Rounding out the collection, Naudé’s third chapter of portraits is set in India, where Nandi the Bull is venerated as a divine religious being and cattle in general are sacred to hundreds of millions of Hindus. In India he examines the practice of honouring animals as earthly incarnations of the Hindu gods and attends the annual Mattu Pongal festival celebrating the crucial role played by cattle in agriculture.
Naudé describes in words and pictures not only the breeds themselves in all three countries but also their human keepers, exploring the longstanding relationships that bind the species.
The concise text is educational and emotive, the images worthy of being framed and hung on any gallery wall.