Domestic Breed




Numida meleagris

Helmeted guinea fowl

West Africa

Only indigenous animal to be domesticated in Africa. First of two guinea fowl species to be domesticated.

Found archaeologically Jebel Shaqadud, Sudan

Numida ptilorhynca

Guinea fowl

East Africa See above

Gallus gallus



Domesticated initially in India (6th millennium B.C.).

Earliest site in Africa, Jenne-Jeno, Mali between A.D. 500-800.

East African Iron age sites of Manekeni Mozambique.

Southern Africa site of Ndondondwane, KwaZulu Natal (8th c. A.D.)

Thryonomys swinderianus

Cane rat

sub-Saharan Africa

Very large rodent, valuable source of meat

Found archaeologically at Khartoum, Sudan

Cricetomys gambianus

African giant rat

West Africa Recently domesticated in West Africa.

Felis catus



May have been first domesticated in Egypt, but no direct evidence. Art from 1991 B.C. Egypt depict cats. Wild progenitor Felis silvestris libyca

Difficult to distinguish from wild cats skeletally, wild and domestic cats can still interbreed.

Canis familiaris



First domesticated in Asia 12,000 years ago. Wild progenitor Canis lupus arabs or Canis lupus pallipes

Difficult to distinguish from archaeologically jackals who are similar in size to dogs.

Dogs in North Africa by 4000 B.C.

Esh Shaheinab & Toukh, Egypt 3300 B.C.

Kerma, Sudan 2000 B.C.

Ntusi, Uganda AMS radiocarbon date from dog bone 990-1120 B.P.

Isamu Pati, Kalomo, Zambia A.D. 950-1000

Southern African sites of Mapungubwe, Schroda, Ndondondwane (South Africa) 1st millennium

South of Limpopo after 6th century

Equus asinus


North and East Africa

Once thought to be indigenous domesticate, now not certain. Found in both Egypt and Asia by 2500 B.C. Wild progenitor though to be Equus africanus

Earliest archaeological evidence Tarkhan, Egypt with radiocarbon accelerator date of 4,260 - 4,520 B.P.

J. Shaqadud, Sudan

Hyrax Hill, Kenya 2nd millennium A.D.

Equus caballus



First introduced to Africa in Egypt by the Hyksos

Earliest evidence in Egypt at Buhen 1675 B.C.

Thought to be introduced in sub-Saharan Africa by Europeans landing at the Cape in 1653.

Camelus dromedarius


North Africa, West Africa, East Africa

Wild progenitor unknown, not certain where it was first domesticated.

Earliest archaeological evidence from Qasr Ibrim, Egypt radiocarbon dates from camel dung 2,600 -2,780 B.P.

Fayum, Egypt camel hair cord

Not common south of Sahel, are very susceptible to trypanosomiasis.

Sus domesticus



Wild progenitor Sus scrofa found in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Earliest domestic pigs are found in Asia

Present in Egypt 3,000 B.C.

Introduced to southern Africa by Europeans.

Bos indicus

Humped cattle


Possible wild progenitor, Bos primigenius or wild auroch.

Mitochondrial DNA studies of humped cattle in West Africa (Butana, Kenana, White Fulani) indicate that humped cattle originated one of two possible ways:

(1) domestication of indigenous Bos primigenius

(2) Zebu bulls from Asia were introduced very early in North Africa. The reason for this possibility is that "their genetic lineage in modern cattle would be masked, as mtDNA is present only in the female line (p.422).

Wendorf & Schild argue that Neolithic sites in the eastern Sahara have the remains of domesticated Bos primigenius around 7,000 B.P.

Capelett, Algeria 7th-6th millennium B.C.

Bos taurus

Humpless cattle


Eurasian domesticate introduced early into Africa. Cross-breeding between humped and humpless cattle produced breeds known as Sanga which became widespread across continent.

Several humpless breeds in West Africa (N'Dama, Borgou) have evolved trypanosomiasis resistance and are adapted to areas with tsetse flies. Some people argue that this is proof of long history of domestication in Africa.

Capra hircus



Wild progenitor from Asia, Capra aegagrus so it was introduced early into Africa. There are two indigenous species of wild goat relatives but there is no evidence of their domestication. Capra ibex walie (Walia ibex) in Ethiopia highlands, and Ammotragus lervia (Barbary sheep or aoudad) in North Africa.

Breeds today are divided into 4 general categories: dwarf goats of equatorial belt, savanna goats, Nubian goats, and Maltese goats of Atlas countries.

Archaeological evidence of goats 6,500 B.P. from Neolithic sites in Algeria

Esh Shaheinab, Sudan

Kintampo & Ntereso, Ghana 2000 B.C.

Happy Rest, South Africa 4th c. A.D.

Ndondondwane, KwaZulu-Natal 8th c. A.D.

Ovis aries



Wild progenitor is Ovis orientalis from Asia: introduced into Africa

Haua Fteah, Libya 5th millennium B.C.

screw-horned sheep in Egypt 3100-2613 B.C.

fat-tailed sheep in Middle Kingdom of Egypt 1991-1633 B.C.

Kerma, Sudan 2400-1500 B.C.

Southern Africa 200 B.C.

northeastern portion of Lake Turkana Basin, Kenya 3000 B.C.

Prolonged Drift, Kenya 1000 B.C.

"The fat tail of the sheep was an extremely valuable source of fat for pastoralists throughout the continent as it was to the early European immigrants. Early descriptions of the Cape sheep stated that the tail weighed from 13 to 26 kilograms. The fat was semi-fluid and was frequently used for oil and for butter."

* Goat and Sheep remains are difficult to distinguish archaeologically without horn cores, so the two domesticates are often lumped into one group, sometimes referred to as ovacaprines.