The Story

Len Harvey’s lifelong interest in cattle and his personal commitment to improving the lot of the native farmers in Zimbabwe by helping improve their livestock was the driving force behind the development of the Tuli breed.

Len Harvey was born in 1916 on a farm near Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, South Africa, were his lifelong interest in cattle started. Although he had grown up on a dairy farm, the long hours and hardships associated with dairy at that time put him off dairy for life. He knew that there must be an easier way to make a living! In 1938, twenty two year old Len, came to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) on a three month holiday and was offered employment in the Irrigation Department to work in the Lower Gwelo area. He took the job and never again left the country.

After being transferred to Salisbury (Harare) in 1942 Harvey asked to be transferred to Gwanda to concentrate on the work that really interested him – his study of native cattle. Mr. Harvey, who was at the time working as a Land Development Officer, had noticed a distinct type of yellow Sanga cattle amongst the ordinary native stock. From his observations, working with the native cattle farmers, he believed these yellow cattle to be, in a variety of ways, superior to other native stock, and to be particularly well adapted to local conditions. He believed the cattle would be ideally suited for further improvement and hoped to provide the African stockman with a nucleus of improved cattle, suited to the low rainfall areas of Matebeleland. Mr. Harvey, having formulated a plan for the improvement of the Tswana cattle brought his observations and ideas to the attention of the Department of Native Agriculture. The response was favourable and the government provided funds for Mr. Harvey to go out and purchase the best cattle he could find.

Early Tuli history in Zimbabwe
In the early 1940’s in Southern Rhodesia the Government was promoting a cattle improvement scheme whereby bulls from imported European breeds were made available to the indigenous people. The idea was to “improve” the indigenous cattle stock. Len Harvey, now an agricultural advisor working for the Government, had severe reservations about the whole idea.

He was convinced that the imported animals and their progeny would probably never survive the very hostile African environment. This is because he had noticed that cattle in the south western corner of Zimbabwe were consistently in good condition and seemingly better adapted to the environment. It took him four years to sell his idea to the powers that be. In 1945, 3000 acres of ground in the Tribal Trust area 40km south west of Gwanda was set aside for a cattle breeding program with the “revolutionary” aim to improve the indigenous cattle through a process of selection instead of crossbreeding.

The fundamental infrastructure was laid on and in 1946/47 the first group of 20 cows and a bull was bought from the locals and established on the farm. Within months new arrivals brought the numbers up to 60 cows and two bulls. In time the farm on the Guyu Creek, a tributary of the Tuli River, became known as the T.B.S (Tuli Breeding Station). In 1950 the T.B.S was enlarged to 20000 acres and Harvey became the permanent Officer in Charge. Improved meat production was the whole aim of the Tuli Project. In 1955 the Tuli was registered as an indigenous Rhodesian Breed and numbers on the T.B.S. reached 1000 in 1961. In this year too, strings of Tuli steer won all carcass competitions at the countries three most important Agricultural Shows thereby earning the coveted ‘Triple Crown’ Trophy for the T.B.S– much to everyone’s surprise.

In 1961 the Tuli Breeders Association was formed and their constitution and regulations drawn up. In 1962 Len Harvey’s important contribution to agriculture in Zimbabwe was acknowledged when an M.B.E. was awarded him by the Queen. At the first public auction of Tulis in 1965 the complete offer of 39 bulls, 117 heifers and 49 cows were snapped up by enthusiastic buyers.

In 1978 Len Harvey retired after 40 years in service. The War of Liberation which had been going on for years had reached new levels of intensity. One night in 1979 all the workers at the T.B.S were abducted. It was feared that the Tulis were in grave danger and a huge rescue action was launched by Ian Smith’s Government. Convoys of Government trucks were commissioned and within 48 hours all the Tulis at the T.B.S were moved to the Matopos Research Station outside Bulawayo. This helped salvage the Tulis. Although Harvey still acted as advisor for a while, the focus of action in respect of Tuli Breeding in Zimbabwe now moved to the private Breeders who had already been involved since the middle sixties.



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