Meet the beach body ready bulls who ramble along South Africa’s wild coast

Never mind Protein World’s disturbing definition of ‘beach body ready’, there’s a herd of cattle in Pondoland, South Africa, who are taking regular trips to the seaside wearing nothing but their own rawhide.

Photographer Christopher Rimmer has spent a year in the natural region studying the strange habits of the bulls, cows and calves who have been making daily visits to South Africa’s eastern coast for centuries – though no one knows why.

Amapondo, his fascinating photographic portrait of the oddly-located mammals, is now showing in exhibitions across the world following its 2014 debut in Cape Town and global launch in New York last month. If you’re in Miami, Melbourne, Munich or San Diego in 2015 we recommend taking the opportunity to see these stunning pictures in the flesh.

The cattle are famous for their habit of visiting the beach. Reports from shipwrecked sailors stretching back to the 16th century suggest the cattle have passed the habit down through many generations and centuries.

There is no accepted scientific reason for the coastal trips. But Melbourne-based photographer Rimmer told the Guardian that he has an inkling that the animals’ reasons are rather similar to those of humans: “I spent a long time observing these animals and, as resistant as I am to anthropomorphising, I could come to no other conclusion than: the bulls visit the beach daily because they simply enjoy being there.”

Rimmer grew up in South Africa and attended a school situated on the Eastern Cape. While there he became familiar with the cattle’s carers, the local Xhosa people, learning about their history, culture and language.

The Xhosa language features a complex vocabulary of words and phrases that describe the skin markings and individual traits of cattle.

The Xhosa house their cattle in pens overnight before releasing them to roam freely at dawn.

At midday they return to their pens for milking and most cows follow this up by hitting the beach in the afternoon for a spot of sunning and relaxation down by the Indian Ocean.

On the hotter days, cattle often graze right into the surf area of one of the most shark-infested beaches on the planet.

The beach-ready herds count many cows and calves among their number but Rimmer’s exhibition focusses on the bulls.

The bull features heavily in the Xhosa mythology and oral history. Rimmer comments that bulls often stand apart from the herd, conjuring a bizarre contrast to the vast sands and open skies.

“When people see these animals in such an eccentric location,” Rimmer says, “they are both amused and moved, particularly when they realise the scene is natural.”

See more of Rimmer’s photography here. Or learn more about Christopher in “the man who loved Africa“.

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