Cow’s Trotters a Popular Delicacy in Zimbabwe, Thanks to Reputation as Aphrodisiac


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Mai Pee’s open kitchen is a popular spot for people, typically men, to purchase a bowl of cow-trotter stew. The kitchen is located at Warren Park 1, in a suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe. Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

The cash shortage in Zimbabwe has only partly dimmed the locals’ consumption of cow’s feet, which traditionally carry a reputation as an aphrodisiac and performance-enhancer. The cow’s feet are typically prepared as part of a stew with beans, sometimes accompanied by sadza, a Zimbabwean staple, and flavored with herbs that some also consider a boost to sexual desire and performance.

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — It’s about 10:30 in the morning. The fire is lit, and pots with water are warming on the flames. At the other end of the fire, cow trotters (cow feet), often referred to as “mazondo” in Shona, are laid on the open flames. After the cow trotters are removed from the fire, a few men busy themselves by peeling off the trotters’ dead skin.

This is the daily routine at a local market that specializes in selling cow trotters in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.

Prosper William has been in the business for four years, and he says that despite a decline in the supply of cow trotters, many customers still come to purchase them.

“Most of the people who come to buy the trotters are women who are in the business of cooking and selling the trotters,” he says.

Cow trotters are a famous delicacy in Zimbabwe – one that is most popular among men, many of whom believe the trotters to be an aphrodisiac that intensifies sexual desire when eaten.

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Cow trotters are placed on the fire after excess fur has been removed with the use of sharp knives, before being prepared for cooking.

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

William says that some of his customers say consuming the cow trotters boosts their sexual drive, although he says he hasn’t had that experience.

“Some individuals who come to buy from us say that they were advised by their doctors to buy cow trotters for health reasons,” he says.

Cow trotters are prepared in a stew and usually served with sadza, a Zimbabwean staple made of cornmeal. Some people prefer to eat the stew on its own.

Kenias Nyamasvisva, who also sells cow trotters at the market, says the cash shortages in Zimbabwe have driven down the number of people who come to buy trotters.

“On a good day we sell between 30 to 100 cow trotters, with each ranging from $2 to $2.50, depending on the size,” he says. Before the cash shortages they would sell from 80 to 120 cow trotters, he adds.

Nyamasvisva says he believes that it is just a myth that trotters boost sexual desire; the heightened sex drive comes from the addition of traditional herbs to the dish, he adds.

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After some time on the fire, the cow trotters are ready for cleaning. Prosper William and his colleagues peel the dead skin off of the trotters before sending them on to be sold.

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

Taurai Zvirimumoyo, 55, has a different perspective. He says the cow trotters work as an aphrodisiac for him without any herbs or additives.

“When we were growing up, we used to see our fathers eating cow trotters, and we didn’t know why they were eating them more often, but when we grew up they then told us the secret behind eating them,” says Zvirimumoyo.

“My wife knows that she should prepare cow trotters more often, because it is also to her advantage in bed,” he says.

Regardless of popular belief, scientists have yet to find evidence that cow trotters are an aphrodisiac.

Dr. Moses Gondo, a general practitioner in the Harare suburb of Kuwadzana, says cow trotters are not an aphrodisiac, though they may provide a placebo effect.

“Most Africans are too superstitious, and if they hear that something will help them boost their sexual activity, they run for it,” he says.

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Eneresia Gwazvo sorts through maize seeds in her home in Rusike, in Goromonzi, a district east of Harare, Zimbabwe. She says the marrow in the cow trotters is a source of strength for both men and women, enhancing couples’ sexual performances.

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

Dr. Gondo says that cow trotters are rich in protein, like any other meat, and that’s the only health benefit they offer.

Eneresia Gwazvo, 81, lives in Rusike, a rural area in Zimbabwe’s Goromonzi District. She says that cow trotters were traditionally given to men who were about to be married and that the trotters give both men and women strength in their sexual performances, with or without the added herbs.

“The trotters were cooked by men and were eaten at the place where men sat to discuss their own issues, commonly referred to as “padare” in Shona. Women were not allowed to cook or eat the trotters; they were prepared [at] padare and eaten there,” she says. Padare refers to a place where men would gather in order to socialize and impart wisdom to younger men.

Gwazvo, however, says this tradition is no longer being followed. Most women buy cow trotters for business purposes. A majority of them operate open-space kitchens close to beer halls, whose customers – often men – come to buy cooked trotters.

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A pot of cow-trotter and bean stew stays warm on the fire in Mai Pee’s open kitchen in Warren Park 1.

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

Doreen Zinyama, who also lives in Rusike, says cow trotters help her and her husband to be strong and perform better in bed.

“There are traditional herbs that are put into the dish to help enhance sex drive, but even if there are no additives, the marrow in the cow trotters helps strengthen bones,” she says.

Try cow trotters
To purchase ready-to-cook cow trotters, visit the vendors who operate near Koala Park Butchery, on Seke Road, about 13.7 kilometers (8.5 miles) from Harare’s city center, or contact Luckmore Mafuriranwa at (263) 775 735 293.

For a prepared meal of cow trotters, visit African Pot, a restaurant along Jason Moyo Avenue, in Harare’s city center, or Mai Pee’s open-space kitchen at Warren Park 1.

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Mai Pee serves a plate of cow-trotter stew to a customer. Her kitchen is open for business every weekend.

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ, translated some interviews from Shona.