The Horns and Head of the Buffalo
The rook or castle depicts the horns and head of a buffalo. The reason for its inclusion in the chess set, is that cattle played an important part in Zulu society, not just as a source of food and hides, but also currency, and a means of assessing status and worth.
A Zulu army (impi), assembled for battle, resembled in formation the body and horns of the buffalo. Generally the ‘horns’ were formed from young agile regiments, whilst their most experienced regiments formed the ‘chest’. Behind this advanced the ‘loins’, which was a reserve of men ready to reinforce the ‘chest’ if need be. This formation maximised the strength and ability of the Zulu force. The youngest and the fittest Zulu warriors forming the ‘horns’ would be sent out to flank the enemy on both sides, whilst the older, more battle experienced men in the ‘chest’ and ‘loins’ would advance head on towards the enemy. This formation proved to be deadly when deployed against an enemy on open ground, but not as effective against well dug in troops. The battle at Isandlwana was a good example of how successful this manoeuver could be. The battle at Rorke’s Drift was an example of how ineffective it was when used against a barricaded enemy.