Veterinary History of Southern Africa Home Page


The history of man’s involvement in the maintenance of the health of domesticated animals in Africa can probably be traced back as far as the domestication of animals such as dogs, sheep, goats, cattle, horses and pigs. In the case of the aurochs, Bos primegenius, the ancestor of cattle, for example, domestication is thought to have taken place in the Near East and probably also independently in North Africa circa 8000 years ago. Penetration of southern Africa by migrants with domesticated animals probably dates from about 2000 years ago. There is good evidence that the first pastoral immigrants practised the treatment of their sick animals with ethno-veterinary remedies made from plants and other natural products. Surgical intervention in some animal ailments was apparently first practised in the Near East and the remarkable progress made in veterinary medicine by Greek and Roman ‘veterinarians’ is on record. The first qualified, non-military veterinarians only started arriving on the South African scene in the middle 1800’s but they used their scientific knowledge, which had been vastly improved from those early beginnings over the centuries, to very good effect.

The subsequent local achievements of veterinarians and other scientists involved in the veterinary discipline are remarkably impressive. The sparsely recorded extension of veterinary medicine to wild animals in recent years has become world-renowned. Presentation of the veterinary history of southern Africa in book format is therefore undoubtedly justified and the production thereof has consequently been one of the objectives of the History Committee of the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA).

It was decided that the envisaged book should be a virtual publication in the form of a website entitled: Veterinary history of southern Africa. The website format was selected for various reasons, the most important being its accessibility and the fact that it is open-ended enabling the addition of further contributions, for which there is great potential. It is therefore specifically aimed at conserving and improving the accessibility of important publications on the multifaceted history of veterinary activities in this part of the world. Another important objective is to stimulate the interest of veterinarians and especially veterinary students in the history of the veterinary profession.

The website currently consists of two divisions. One comprises the book entitled Onderstepoort 1908-2008 which was published as part of its centenary celebrations but is now out of print and not easily obtainable. The other division consists of papers on historical subjects presented at either the centenary conference in 2008 or the History Session of the World Veterinary Congress of 2011 in Cape Town and subsequently published in veterinary journals. Also included are diverse relevant, published peer-reviewed papers.