Journal of the South African Veterinary Association
On-line version ISSN 2224-9435
SNIJDERS, A J. The role of Robben Island as a stock breeding station for the settlement at the Cape of Good Hope. J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. [online]. 2011, vol.82, n.2, pp. 60-70. ISSN 2224-9435.
The universal notoriety of Robben Island as a penitentiary for political prisoners, notably in the 19th and 20th centuries, overshadows its previous historical significance established centuries ago. The Island, initially a source of seals and penguins to European mariners rounding the southern tip of Africa, and later for several other reasons, including its proximity to the Cape of Good Hope, played a pivotal role in the selection of this halfway station. The seals would provide blubber for train oil and the penguins, meat and eggs. The transhumant Peninsular Khoekhoe was to provide cattle and sheep by a barter process as before. Inconsistent access to Khoen livestock forced the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) to consider their own breeding programmes and ultimately the establishment of Free Burgers. Van Riebeeck confirmed the suitability of Robben Island for the fattening and breeding of sheep and this island made a substantial contribution to the provision of sheep and mutton to the fleets and the local community. Khoen sheep did not do well in the Table Valley in early summer and it was expected that they would thrive on the drier island. Predators and stock theft were major problems at the Cape and neither occurred on the island. It is contended that it was unlikely that the settlement at the Cape would have occurred and succeeded without Robben Island.
Keywords : Cape of Good Hope; early settlement; Robben Island; sheep diseases; stock.