The Khoikhoi (called ‘Hottentots’ by early white settlers) were descendants of huntergatherers who had acquired livestock centuries earlier, probably in modern Botswana. Supporting a growing population through their pastoral economy they expanded fairly rapidly throughout southern Africa. Those moving into high rainfall areas to the east were probably absorbed over the centuries into Bantu-speaking societies that both kept cattle and cultivated crops; those moving southward and westward tended to retain their purely pastoral economy.
When European settlement began in the mid-seventeenth century, Khoikhoi groups called the Namaqua were
settled in modern Namibia and the north eastern Cape; others, including the Korana, along the Orange River; and others, including the Gonaqua, interspersed among the Xhosa in the Eastern Cape. But the largest concentration of Khoikhoi, numbering in the tens of thousands, inhabited the well-watered pasturelands of the southwestern Cape. These ‘Cape Khoikhoi’ would be the first African population to receive the brunt of white settlement.