Zulu Indigenous Sheep

black imvu
izimvu nguni sheep
brown zulu sheep
shaggy coat zulu sheep
my nguni sheep
zulu sheep lamb

The sole purpose of this site is to promote and to conserve this very
valuable endangered South African indigenous sheep breed that occurs in the hot humid KwaZulu coastal region.

This site does not have whistles, bells or flashing lights to entertain the viewer it's sole purpose is to present as much scientific information as possible to those who are serious about the conservation of this endangered sheep breed that is part of our national heritage.

I will greatly appreciate any information links or photographs that can be presented on this site.


Zulu sheep known by the Zulu name Imvu singular and Izimvu plural are very hardy and active animals native to KwaZulu-Natal on the east coast of South Africa, that belong to the Nguni type of sheep together with the Pedi, Damara and the Swazi sheep.

Zulu sheep are predominantly raised by rural farmers and serve primarily as a source of food and income to resource poor farmers.

They are valued by the local farmers for their high adaption to harsh environmental conditions and their ability to tolerate both external and gastro-intestinal parasites. They are also known for their resistance to tick-borne diseases and have stronger immune systems that require less medication that other breeds.

These hardy, agile, versatile sheep have been part of the Zulu nation as long as the nation has existed and have been managed alongside traditional cropping systems. In many old paintings Zulu sheep are shown as an integral part of traditional Zulu livelihood.

Risk of extinction

The Zulu sheep despite the strong adaptations that the they have to the local hot and humid climate and harsh conditions are at risk of extinction as result of the cross breeding of Zulu sheep with other exotic sheep breeds. As a result of this threat every effort should be made to save this valuable endangered local breed of sheep.

It would surely be a very sad day if the custodians of sheep with such superb genetics allow them to become extinct due to indifference and or negligence.


Zulu sheep are small to medium frame animals.

The average weights for mature ewes, varies between 24 and 39 kg’s with shoulder heights between 59 to 65 cm and heart girths, between 79 and 84 cm.

Mature rams weigh 40 to 45 kg with shoulder heights from 60 to 63 cm

Lambs have an average birth mass of 2.96 kg for single lambs and 2.41 kg for twins.

Zulu sheep are long limbed which gives them the ability to walk long distances. A phenomenon observed in the Zulu sheep is their ability to scratch their flanks with their hind legs.

Zulu sheep are multi-coloured sheep that come in shades of brown, black, and white, with wool or hair, they naturally shear their coats. They often have exceedingly small ears, with tails that are characteristically fat at the base, tapering carrot-like to the tip.

The rams may be polled or horned.

The most prevalent colour is brown which is closely followed by a combination of white and brown. The combination of black and brown is slightly less frequent.

Lambs that are born black will often fade to a dark-brown.

Zulu sheep tend to be woollier than the other indigenous breeds such as the Pedi and Damara.


Their classical habitats are the hot humid coastal forests to hot dry bushveld, where they have developed a tolerance to ticks and survive in areas where heartwater is a serious threat to livestock. They also occur on sour grassveld areas like Msinga Top and Nkandla, yhat experience moderate to warm summers and cold winters where several flocks are adapted.


They are fertile with excellent mothering abilities.
The ewes are very protective of their young.
They are tolerant of external and internal parasites.
They are tolerant of tick-borne diseases.
They have a good walking and foraging ability browsing as well as grazing.
The fat which is localised in the tail enhances the shedding of heat. The hardiness of the Zulu sheep is considered to be its most valuable attribute, and while they are also considered to be resistant to bluetongue, heartwater and blowfly they can be susceptible to internal parasites


Limited numbers of this untapped genetic resource still exist and without intervention valuable genes, such as resistance to heartwater and heat in humid areas could be lost to animal production, particularly in a period of global warming.

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Designed, Developed, Ownwed & Maintained by Michael Hickman
This page was  created on 14.03.2020
This page was last updated on 17.09.2023