Dawnside Farm is located 15 minutes from the historical town of Dundee in the beautiful province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. This family owned and run enterprise belongs to Craig and Lee van Heerden who live in the family homestead on the property. The house overlooks expansive grass plains where the families Nguni herd roams freely. These vast plains coupled with an abundance of water, even during the dry winter months, has led to a happy, healthy herd who exhibit some of the best examples of Nguni cattle.
In addition to the cattle, the farm has a successful chicken business where over 7000 eggs are sent daily to the local stores in Dundee and Newcastle. A small dairy, pigs and vegetable business complete this family owned business with the family enjoying many of the products they produce.
The Nguni breed are the traditional breed of the Zulu nation and have strong associations both in name and in physical attributes to their surroundings on the plains of KwaZulu-Natal and Zululand. These cattle are amongst some of the toughest breeds, being able to survive extremes in climate as well as, at times, very limited and tough grass.
Cattle are a strong feature in Zulu culture and considered a measurement of wealth: the more cattle a man owns, the wealthier he is considered. An example of the value attributed to cattle is their location in the village when bought in from the veld. To ensure the cattle's safety and to protect them from both wild animals as well as other raiding tribes, they were placed in a fenced enclosure in the centre of the village which was surrounded by the huts.
Nguni hides are an assortment of rich colours and patterns. The more dominant colours being black, white, brown and in less common instances, a combination of all three or dun (also known as yellow). Each of the varying hide's patterns has a name closely associated to an animal, bird, plant or other natural wonder. Although it is not necessarily limited to this natural association for example, on the odd occasion, a beast may be described by the pattern of the hide itself.
Nguni hides are highly functional and are mostly used as "rugs" in homes and furniture coverings as they are both decorative and warm. In more recent times, hides have been used as cushion covers, handbags as well as in other household items.
Dawnside Farm is proud to share these hides and hide products with you and whilst this text offers a mere glimpse into the mystery and history of these animals, should you be interested in more detailed information, the book "The Abundant Herds : A celebration of the Nguni cattle and the Zulu people" by Marguerite Poland, David Hammond-Tooke and Leigh Voigt offers a unique and detailed insight into the Zulu culture and the vital part the Nguni cattle have in it.