Nero the Zebu



All hail the Zebu.

I feel so lucky getting to do what I do. I was so fortunate to go and photograph Nero, the Zebu bull at Willowbank farm. The Willowbank farm is the only farm in NZ to have Zebu, so I was so excited to meet my very first Zebu cattle.

The animals at the Willowbank farm are special, as a lot of them are temporary residents of the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, and they come back to the farm to reside or rest and to have a break from the public eye.

The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is a New Zealand leader in conservation, with success in many national, Australasian and in-house breeding programmes focusing on New Zealand native and endangered species, as well as many rare and heritage breeds of farm stock. And that is how I got to meet Nero, the Zebu and the owner of Willowbank and founder ofWillowbank Wildlife Reserve, Michael Willis.

Nero was a friendly old soul. Michael said he treats all his animals with respect that they deserve and this will show in their behaviour and nature. Nero was just that. Friendly and respectful and obviously happy in his surroundings. He was easy to walk up to take his photograph. I loved Nero’s balayage colourings and large hump on his shoulders. His was quite large, as the size of the humps increase as they get older. And not to forget his magnificent horns. Michael mentioned that they his Zebu’s have so much character and would often stand on their hind legs to reach up to a tree to have a nibble at their branches. Oh how I wish I could have seen that.

Zebu cattle are one of the oldest cattle breeds in the world. Two to three thousand years ago a group of zebu arrived in Sri Lanka and have bred unchanged since. Some Zebu were exported to North America in the 1920s, and most of the few animals in the rest of the world are derived from them. Their export is now prohibited. Only nineteen were imported into Australia in 1995, and four into New Zealand in 2009, by Michael Willis himself, so they are quite rare!