Strains of the East African Shorthorned Zebu originating in Ethiopia were common in Kenya by the 15th century.
Early in 20th century cattlemen in the Laikipia, Rift Valley and Machakos Districts of Kenya adopted and improved the local Zebu for commercial ranching.
The merits of the breed were soon recognised and the cattle breeders united to form the Boran Cattle Breeders Society in 1951.
By the year 2001 the Society had sixty-four paid up members with more than one thousand three hundred new registrations in the Kenya Stud Book during 1999-2000 alone.
The below is taken from an article in the 60th anniversary journal published by the Kenya Boran Cattle Breeders’ Society:
“In 1950 the Boran Cattle Breeders’ Society registered it’s first members. In 1952 names such as Miles Fletcher, David Begg and Robert Ayre-Smith, a vet stationed at the time in Naivasha, got together and started registering the first Boran with the Kenya Stud Book. I quote from a letter sent by Robert recently from his home in Australia:
“I was invited by Miles Fletcher to join him and David Begg in helping to establish the Boran Breeders’ Society. One of my first tasks was to identify and score the desirable characteristics of the breed, following which we visited many properties in the Rift Valley and Central Provinces to select cattle for registration in the Herd Book.”
It was after that Borans started moving out of the country. Late 50’s saw the first to arrive in Northern Rhodesia, followed by heifers and bulls bred by Miles Fletcher, destined for South Africa on the ship to Durban but forced to offload at Bayra and ended up in Northern Rhodesia. Zambia continued to import Borans by air or road up to the mid 80’s. Prominent in Zambia early Boran history were Demo Ranch, Choma; Miller near Lusaka and Harvey to the north.Throughout the 60’s and 70’s Boran breeders prospered from export of their stock. To Zambia, Uganda and I believe even Zaire. Suguroi Estate, started by Miles Fletcher, boasted sales of 100 bulls a year under the management of Charlie Stonewig. I started with Boran in 1978 as Simon Fletcher was selling his Sirimma Farm, Ngobit and his herd was taken up by Segera Ranch under the management of John Cousens, (with myself as his assistant) and Ol Pejeta Ranching, under John Poulton. Two new stud breeders were born from this base stock and Mutara and Suguroi bulls were bought to put onto the females.
In 1984 the Australians arrived looking to import Boran embryos. They were put off by our then Government. They immediately moved to Zambia where Australia received its first and last Boran Embryos. After that there was a very quiet decade for the Kenya Boran with very little movement of cattle. Breeders Borans all over Africa became despondent and registrations dwindled. Then in 1992, Simon Barkas on Ol Pejeta got talking to Forrester Estates, Zimbabwe, who were interested in Boran embryos. With advice from Zimbabwean vets, Simon built the first Quarantine station and Embryo facility. 100 donor cows and 12 bulls were selected by Forrester and their cattle advisor Paul Goodwin, from Ol Pejeta, Mutara, Mogwooni, Solio, Delamere and Segera studs. They successfully recovered 500 embryos which resulted in over 200 calves on the ground. Forrester Estates were mainly tobacco growers, and after Paul Goodwin departed the cattle were not managed.
However I am pleased to report that the herd still exists on Forresters’ to this day and will prove to be a useful bank of genetics. Following this the BCBS got some interest from South Africa. Simon Hodgins, nephew to Miles Fletcher, and now based in SA, was determined to fulfill his Uncle’s dream in getting Boran into SA. He teamed up with Douglas Ralfe, Sr. who was a recognized stockman of note, and had land and cattle to use for recipients to Boran embryos. David Green ex-Zambian, also a farmer, in the same area of Natal, joined Tim Ralfe, son of Douglas, in this first venture. They took on Dr. Ronnie de la Rey of Embry Plus to carry out the ET and used the Ol Pejeta facility in 1994.
The first Boran in South Africa were born on these two farms in the Escourt area of Natal. It took another 6 years before the next export to SA. This time, in the drought of 2000, Terry Mclintock and his advisor, Johan van de Nest, selected a number of red, smaller framed, tighter skinned animals from the same breeders. With an active marketing program Terry spread the word around and the Boran fraternity in SA started to grow; fast. This was also the beginning of long relationship with Morne de la Rey, who took over from his father in running Embryo Plus. Morne has been an extremely loyal supporter of the Boran and promoted its favourable characteristics throughout Southern Africa. To this day he continues to support and market Kenyan Boran genetics. Up until December 2006 he was responsible for collecting 4000 embryos from Kenyan Boran and marketed them all in SA. After 2006 the SA Vet changed their protocol for importation of Embryos from Kenya. This entailed Ol Pejeta building a whole new quarantine and Embryo centre. It has taken 4 years to complete and agree on the protocol. Thanks to Morne’s input and finance the project has got going again and as I write 600 Boran embryos are ready for shipment. Morne has also instigated interest in Namibia where we have 5 breeders starting with Boran. Kaspar Gunzel, who judged the Boran classes in Nairobi in 2006, Pete Mutschler and Chris Coetzee being the main leaders. There is vast potential for the Boran in this country.
Uganda became a player again starting in 2004. Jones Ruhombe Kamugisha and John Bishanga have been very loyal customers of Kenya Borans and have done much to spread the word.
Ol Pejeta, Mogwooni and Solio especially have benefited from the market in Uganda. Latterly Tanzania has opened up as a potential market. Thanks to our members, Mark and Nicky Taylor, who moved down to Iringa with their herd, followed by Jan Ulyate and her Ndakaini herd. Mark has made the most of his situation and has created markets in Zambia, Zaire and even Malawi. One can see the Boran is spreading
and will continue to do so as long as our breeders are active and always strive to improve and create new genetics.”