“A Man’s Beauty is His Cows” Xhosa Culture

The following (from Xhosa Fundis) can give you some insight into traditional Xhosa Culture.  Understanding a culture can help you relate to people, relieve stress, and better equip you to minister the Word amongst them.


Having spent most of my early childhood years in the rural areas and later moving to the urban areas, I have observed different attitudes amongst Xhosa people towards animals. To begin with, in the rural areas, cows, sheep, and goats are the most valued animals, and the best treated, as they would bring in the most money if sold. As such, possession of these animals in the villages, determines a man’s wealth. In fact, one of the most prominent sayings in the rural areas is “ubuhle bendoda ziinkomo zayo” meaning “a man’s beauty is his cows”. Owning cows shows financial stability and means more likely approval from the bride’s family when beginning the process of marriage negotiations. Sadly, a man with no livestock may well be a victim of jokes and mockery. (Tandeka Mgudlwa) In the urban areas, cows seem to have been replaced by cars. What kind of car you have, or how many cars you have, often determines your status and lobola is more likely to be paid in cash. (Nobuhle Mngcwengi). What’s interesting is that even when urban Xhosa families are negotiating lobola in cash, they will speak about the number of cows and then this number will later be converted to cash according to how much a cow is currently worth in the trading of livestock… My friends and I who live in urban areas, mainly think of livestock as food, however if you see a cow in your dream, then it means a ritual needs to be performed. That’s what the cow comes to tell you. When this happens, my friends and I will go to see a Sangoma in the city to find out which ritual needs to take place. (Azime Ngubane) What significance does a cow hold for you?

Ubuhle bendoda ziinkomo zayoSoundCloud|By xhosa-fundis


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