The Watusi breed of cattle originated in eastern Africa, in the areas of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanganyika. They were named for the Tutsior Watusi tribes which raised them. Pictures of these cattle can be found in cave drawings and tomb paintings, and they have played an important role in the lives of the tribes. In Rwanda, the animals are known as Insanga (meaning "the ones which were found") because according to tribal traditions, the cattle were found by the first kings. Individual cattle with huge horns (sometimes up to 12 feet from tip to tip) were known as Inyambo, or the cows with the long long horns. The Inyambo were only owned by the King and were sacred.
The cattle herds were used for barter, trade, and as a sign of wealth to the tribespeople. Watusi cattle are given as gifts to a brides family, a tradition known as bridewealth. Seldom are the animals slaughtered and eaten, except for ceremonies, but they are bled and milked frequently, and the clabbered milk is a dietary staple.
The Watusi cattle have several characteristics which made them survive the harsh and dangerous wilderness of Eastern Africa. The long horns are an obvious advantage, and helped the herd grow in predator rich areas. The young are born quickly and walk and run soon after birth, which enabled them to escape hungry meat eaters. They have long legs and can run and jump much faster and higher than most cattle. The udders on the cows are high and tight, perfectly adapted to living among thorn bushes and predators. They are an extremely social animal, and tend to remain in herds. At night, the adults form a circle, horns out, around the calves, and thus protect the young from nocturnal hunters. The huge horns act as a natural cooling system, making these animals very heat and drought resistant. Many of these characteristics that allowed the Watusi to survive in Africa are what appeal to cattle breeders today.