Boran cattle are a unique and ancient breed of cattle that originated in Africa. These distinctive bovines are known for their large, humpbacked bodies and long horns. Boran cattle are used primarily for meat production, but they are also used for grazing and dairy purposes. Boran cattle are widely used in Africa for their meat, milk, and hides.

These cattle are hardy, resistant to diseases, and able to thrive in harsh climates. This article explores the fascinating biology, ecology, history, and characteristics of Boran cattle. Read on to find out more about this remarkable animal!

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Quick Facts About the Boran Cattle Breed

Breed Name:Boran cattle
Place of Origin:East Africa
Uses:Beef, also dairy (typically crossed to Fresian)
Bull (Male) Size:496–871 lb
Cow (Female) Size:551–783 lb
Color:Grey, fawn, white, black, pied, or red
Lifespan:20 years
Climate Tolerance:Very Hardy
Care Level:Easy-care breed
Production:494–850 kgs of milk per year

Boran Cattle Breed Origins

The Boran is a Zebu beef breed of humped cattle developed in Eastern Africa, mainly on the Borana plateau in Southern Ethiopia. From there, all the different breeds migrated to their various destinations in Africa. The Boran became the dominant breed in Eastern Africa, especially in Kenya, where the Kenyan Boran Cattle Breeders’ Society (BCBS) has been breeding these cows since the turn of the century. While Boran breeders have greatly improved the beef conformation of their animals, they never lost sight of the intrinsic qualities of the indigenous Boran.

Boran Cattle
Image Credit: Jaco van Rensburg, Shutterstock


Through DNA sampling, the genetic make-up of the Boran has been analyzed. The breed consists of 24% European Bos Taurus, 64% Bos Indicus, and 12% African Bos Taurus. This is the only breed in Africa (and therefore the world) with this combination of genes. As far as we know, the Boran breed hasn’t been crossed with new genes since 700 AD.

In other words, the Boran is not a man-made or compound breed that has been crossbred in recent decades. For over 1300 years, it has been bred as a pure breed. For the commercial breeder, this means that the Boran will have much greater hybrid vigor than modern compound breeds.

Boran Cattle Breed Characteristics

Borans are medium-sized beef animals. They are noted for their high reproduction rates, excellent mothering abilities, calm temperaments, and ability to survive harsh conditions. Boran cattle are praised for their fertility and early maturity (more so than other Zebu breeds). Crossbreeding projects aiming to improve the productivity of beef herds can make use of their early maturity and high meat quality.

With more than a thousand years of presence in Africa, they are very well adapted to the local conditions and parasites


Boran cattle are a breed of Zebu cattle that are well known for their fertility and reproductive abilities. They are able to breed at a very young age and have a high rate of conception. They also have a high rate of calving, and their calves are often quite sturdy. Boran cattle are also known for their hardiness and resistance to disease, which makes them a popular choice for breeding stock.

Boran cattle are bred for their exceptional fertility and reproductive abilities. This combination of factors makes the Boran breed one of the most successful in the world when it comes to cattle reproduction.

boran cow standing under the tree
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Outside of Africa, the Boran is used for beef production and the breed is known for its high-quality meat. Within Africa, the Boran breed of cattle is a dual-purpose breed that is used for both meat and dairy production. They are a hardy breed that is well suited to hot, arid climates, and they are known for providing high-quality meat and milk regardless of the environment. Boran cattle are also good grazers and foragers, and they can thrive on limited amounts of feed. They are also a draught breed that is used for pulling heavy loads and known for their strength and endurance, and are used in many parts of East Africa for plowing and transport.


Boran can be white, black, pied, grey, fawn, or red in color and are known for their large horns. The horns can be used for defense, and although this is a sweet and docile breed in general, their horns can be quite dangerous—often used for fighting other cattle and for showing dominance. These horns can be quite large and can cause a lot of damage if the animal becomes agitated. They have thick skin and short, coarse hair which are very oily and help to keep the skin moist, deter parasites, and protect them from the sun.


The Orma Boran is the smallest breed of Boran, smaller than the Kenyan Boran. Orma Boran males typically weigh between 496 and 871 pounds, while females weigh between 551 and 783 pounds. The Kenyan Boran evolved from the Orma Boran, Borana, and Somali Boran. Kenyan Borans are distinguished from other Borans by their size and well-developed hindquarters. Kenyan Boran males typically weigh 1,213 to 1,874 lb, while females weigh 882 to 1,213 lb. Kenyan Boran coat colors usually are white with spots but can also be brown or red.

herd of boran cows grazing
Image Credit: Johann van Dalen, Shutterstock

Population & Distribution

More than 10 million Borans live in Kenya, where they are the most common beef breed. Approximately 2,200 Boran cattle live at Mpala Research Center as a kind of domestic livestock. Mpala encompasses cattle ranching, wildlife conservation, and research within its 200 km2 of unfenced land. Conservationists strive to combine wildlife conservation with agricultural endeavors in this unique area. Approximately 7,000 of these cattle form the world’s largest herd at the nearby Ol Pejeta ranch in Laikipia.


In the dry savannas and shrubland of East Africa, where water can be scarce, Boran cattle are well adapted to surviving. They are well-adapted to the harsh climate and poor soils of the region and can be found in a variety of habitats, from open savannas to dense woodlands. They are well-adapted to the arid and semi-arid conditions of their habitat and can survive on sparse vegetation.

boran cattle in the field
Image Credit: bcostelloe, Shutterstock

Are Boran Cattle Good for Small-Scale Farming?

In conclusion, Boran cattle are a viable option for small farmers. They are hardy animals that can thrive on limited resources, and they produce high-quality meat and dairy products. With proper care, Borans can provide a sustainable source of income for small farmers and contribute to the overall success of their operation.

Boran cattle are well suited to tropical environments and can be used for small-scale farming, although they may be less productive milkers than other breeds of cattle. They are also relatively easy to care for and have a calm temperament, which makes them a good choice for small-scale farmers.

Featured Image Credit: Johann van Dalen, Shutterstock