1896 December – Rinderpest reached German South West Africa

Dead cattle rinderpest cattle plague South Africa 1896

• Rinderpest reached German South West Africa •

In the 1890s, rinderpest spread in Africa (see also the well-researched article “Rinderpest” on Wikipedia; checked in January 2024). It reached the territory of German South West Africa at the end of 1896. The spread of the disease could not be stopped, as the pathogen was also transmitted by cloven-hoofed game. It also proved impossible to quarantine the large herds of cattle. Vaccines were not available in sufficient quantities and did not offer complete protection anyway.

In 1897, many OvaHerero lost the majority of their cattle. Estimates range from 50 to 80 per cent. More and more OvaHerero had to work for Germans on farms or in settlements to earn a living. As a result of the impoverishment, Herero chiefs had to sell land to pay traders for goods or to pay off debts which were often inflated by usurious interest rates.

The sale enabled German settlers to acquire large tracts of prime land. They secured ownership of their farms through title deeds from the German colonial administration. As OvaHerero’s cattle herds grew again, many good grazing areas were no longer accessible.


Dead cattle rinderpest cattle plague South Africa 1896

Rinderpest in South Africa 1896.  Photo:  Unknown author, Wikipedia



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