The Senepol is a two breed
composite that was developed on the island of St. Croix,
the southernmost and largest of the Virgin Islands.
In the 1800s N’Dama Cattle were imported to the
Caribbean Island of St. Croix from Senegal, West Africa.
The St. Croix island environment encompasses both wet
tropics with high humidity and rainfall and hot, dry
savanna areas. Tropical parasites and cattle tick are
abundant and the native vegetation is low in quality.
The N’Dama, a Bos Taurus breed native to Senegal, was
well suited for the Caribbean because of its heat
tolerance, insect and disease resistance, and its
ability to thrive on poor quality forage.
By 1889 Henry C. Nelthropp’s Grenard Estates was one of
the largest N’Dama breeders, with over 250 head of
cattle, which he maintained as purebreds.
After attempts to import higher producing cattle from
temperate regions had failed, the cattle having broken
down quickly from heat and nutritional stress,
Nelthropp’s son, Bromley, had a vision to develop a
breed of cattle that would flourish in their tropical
environment and combine the traits needed for superior
levels of production.
In 1918, Red Poll bulls were introduced to the
Nelthropp’s N’Dama herd to improve milking ability,
fertility and remove the horns. The British Red Poll is
known for its natural poll, red colour, early maturity,
milking and mothering ability, ease of calving and
docile temperament. This blending of genetics proved
very successful, and formed the foundation of the
Senepol breed. As the Red Poll influence became more
apparent, strict selection was applied for the following
● Red color;
● Good conformation;
● Early maturity;
● Natural poll (no horns);
● Gentle disposition; and
● Heat tolerance.
Later the Nelthropp herd was dispersed to local breeders
and the development of the Senepol breed on St. Croix
has since been continued by four primary herds. From
their beginnings, the island herds maintained genetic
records that grew into the Senepol breed registry, as it
is known today.
On-farm performance testing began in the mid 1970’s with
the establishment of the Virgin Islands BCIA (Beef
Cattle Improvement Association). In 1977 the first 22
Senepol cattle were imported to the United States
mainland from where the breed has become extremely
popular, grown and spread to numerous U.S. states and
various countries across the globe.
South African Senepol
The S.A. Senepol Club, under the auspices of the Red
Poll Cattle Breeders’ Society of South Africa, was
established on the 10th August 2000 with nine founding
members during an open meeting held in Bloemfontein.
After making enquiries, a visit to Zimbabwe was arranged
by 2 members during October/November 2000. There they
looked at and selected live animals for import to South
Africa. The process was set in motion and a permit for
the import of 27 live animals from Zimbabwe was issued.
In Zimbabwe the arrangements for the quarantine and
export of the animals did not go very smoothly and led
to several delays. This necessitated another visit to
Zimbabwe in late June 2001 to sort out the problems and
the cattle were able to enter quarantine in Zimbabwe on
26th July 2001. Once in quarantine, some of the animals
tested positive for the disease T.Parva and were not
allowed to continue. One cow and two claves also died in
quarantine. A week before the cattle were due to be
released to come to South Africa there was an outbreak
of Foot and Mouth Disease in Zimbabwe and all borders
were closed for the movement of live animals. The cattle
remained in quarantine in Harare until special
permission was obtained from the South African National
Department of Agriculture to bring them in. Finally,
after many challenges the animals were allowed to set
off on the long journey to the quarantine facility in
Kempton Park, South Africa. The cattle were released
from quarantine on Friday 21st December 2001 to start
their new life here and form the basis upon which the
Senepol breed was established in South Africa.
Since then the popularity of the Senepol breed has grown
immensely and, with the use of imported semen and
embryos and a solid upgrading system, the numbers have
grown accordingly. Today breeders can be found in most
provinces of South Africa and also in the neighbouring
countries Botswana and Namibia.