The Zulu Buffalo Horns

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The Zulus are regarded as being the most terrifying warriors Africa has possibly established and they can be grateful for Shaka Zulu for that status. King Shaka was the ruler of the Zulus from 1816 right up until his death in 1828. During this time, King Shaka changed the Zulu military. He replaced the traditional long throwing spear (Assegai) with a short stabbing spear (Iklwa) with a much wider blade. The Zulu pronunciation of i-klwa is supposedly the sounds the spear made as it was thrust into then withdrawn from an opponents body.

Shaka furthermore prepared logistical assistance for his huge armies and established them into levels of regiment, each making use of their own exclusive titles and patterns on their shields. King Shaka was furthermore in charge of establishing the widely known Zulu battle strategies referred to as the "Buffalo Horns" (impondo zenkomo). This specific tactic had originally been employed by the Zulus for hunting but King Shaka tailored it for combat with devastating effect.

The Buffalo Horns formation would see the Zulus break up their forces into 4 distinct components. Each one represented a part of the Buffalo; the chest (isifuba), left & right horns (izimpondo) and the loins (umuva).

The Chest of the Buffalo normally would engage the opposing forces head on. This component of the Zulu impi would normally consist of the finest warriors, tested in combat.

As the Chest of the Buffalo was pinning down the enemy, the Horns would move off to the left and right, surrounding the opposition. All survivors were given the choice to join the Zulus, the other choice was death. Individuals that joined the Zulu army became Zulus. They renounced their past tribal loyalties and received full Zulu education. The warriors making up the Left & Right Horns would almost always be made up of younger, faster warriors that could move swiftly to surround the enemy.

The rest of the Zulus, the Loins, were often the senior, more knowledgeable warriors who were held in reserve to use as and when required. The reserve warriors would be placed out of sight of the battle and even looking away from the action so they didn't come to be over excited and join the fighting too soon. Shaka Zulu or his commanders would monitor and manage their armies from high ground overlooking the battlefield and communicate their orders with a number of runners.

The "Buffalo Horns" strategies were utilised by the Zulus in tribal combat and continued to be employed some time after Shaka's death. On 22nd January 1879 when the Zulu impi routed the British camp at Isandlwana, it had been considered by a number of people as a terrible British defeat but perhaps it ought to be considered an excellent Zulu triumph. Even though the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 ultimately saw the end of the Zulu nation, the standing they earned lives on. All across the world, the Zulu is talked about as a courageous and formidable warrior. In the phonetic alphabet, the letter ‘Z' is known by the word ‘Zulu'.

Their legacy also brings visitors to this part of South Africa with folks travelling to visit the battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift.

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The Zulu Buffalo Horns

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This article was published on 2010/09/17
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