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Making clay cattle

Mr. S Mkhali of Ophepheni, Highflats gave an explanation about making clay cattle. Clay is used in this game. Clay is a type of mud which is dug up near a river. This mud is tan in colour. It is then mixed up so that it becomes smooth.

People consulted

The researcher consulted Mr. S Mkhali of Ophepheni, Highflats who gave an explanation of how this game is played.

Who play this game?

This game is played by boys from the age of 5 to 12.

What equipment is used to play the game?

This game is played using dough or clay.

When is the game played?

The game is played during the day throughout the year.

Where is the game played?

Boys played this game when they were out in the pastures herding cattle or when they are relaxing in their homesteads. It is played near a stream/river so that they could mix the clay well and keep it moist.

How is the game played?

Boys would go out to dig up clay. Usually it was found near rivers or in the washed-out ravine. Clay cattle would be moulded there by the riverside. They liked to mould bulls so that when they are completed the boys would set these to fight. This was after the bulls have well dried up which took up to 3 days. It was after these days that the boys would set their bulls to fight.

During this fight, the bulls would be held by hand and the owners prompting the fight. They would make them to lock horns which will gradually break as the fight continues. The bull which has both horns broken first is said to be the defeated one.

Custom associated with this game

Making clay cattle is a wonderful game because it trains boys to have artistic hands and be able to do other art works as experts. As they practiced more, they ended up performing excellent art works as adults. It is easy to identify a boy who cannot do artwork. Even when he handles other things, he is haphazard and his hands are not strong.


From a Masters dissertation by Victoria Mkhize for the School of IsiZulu, University of KwaZulu-Natal. Supervised by Professors P.J. Zungu and V. Prabhakaran.