Environmental and market pressures strongly affect cattle breeding in East Africa. While optimising breeding with diverse genetic material can improve income from cattle production, it can also lead to a loss and depletion of valuable animal genetic resources. This study assesses livestock-keepers perceptions of breeding strategies for the Borana breed and provides empirical evidence for livestock-keepers’ awareness of different factors related to the improvement and survival of the breed. Knowledge of breeding with exotic cattle breeds was found to be relatively poor, particularly in Ethiopia, with livestock-keepers in Kenya being more receptive to the practise. In Kenya, crossing with exotic breeds is the main threat to survival of the Borana breed while in Ethiopia the major threat is dilution of Borana genetic material with that of other locally available breeds. Overall the breeding preferences of Ethiopian livestock-keepers’ seem most conducive to de-facto or on-farm conservation programmes for the Borana breed.