Mitochondrial DNA cleavage patterns from representative animals of the Afrikanerand Nguni sanga cattle breeds, indigenous to Southern Africa, were compared to the mitochondrial DNA cleavage patterns of the Brahman (zebu) and the Jersey (taurine) cattle breeds. Identical restriction patterns were found with nine restriction enzymes in all four breeds. The restriction profiles obtained from these sanga breeds fall into the Afro-European lineage as described previously. High resolution restriction analysis was performed on representative Nguni and Afrikaner animals in order to obtain information on the mitochondrial DNA variation within these breeds. For this, the hypervariable displacement loop region and adjacent genes were amplified using the polymerase chain reaction. The amplified product was analysed with nine restriction enzymes. An additional restriction site was observed in two unrelated Nguni animals with the enzyme Msp I. This mutation is situated in the 12s rRNA gene. As in other Southern African animal species, the variation observed in the indigenous breeds is low and this can be attributed to the effect that bottlenecks have played in the evolution of the species. It is concluded that mitochondrial DNA studies may be less informative in these Southern African cattle breeds, than similar studies performed in the northern hemisphere.