The ship's equipment was mostly obsolete, as such it only had a Mark V transporter, requiring ship's personnel to use anti-grav sleds when loading the ship with unstable biomatter. (DS9: "Family Business")
In 2371, the Xhosa operated under the authority of the Petarians. (DS9: "Family Business") On Stardate 48960.9, the Xhosa hauled a load of duridium ore to Solais V. The ship was due to return to DS9 the following month. (DS9: "The Adversary")
When a Klingon task force arrived in the Bajoran system in early 2372, a Klingon Bird-of-Prey, the M'Char, stopped the Xhosa and attempted to board it to search for Changelings while attempting to leave the system. Trapped in the M'Char's tractor beam, its Commander Kaybok, insisted that the freighter must be searched, under orders from Chancellor Gowron and the Klingon High Council. They were approached by the USS Defiant, which eventually forced the M'Char to withdraw and the Xhosa left the Bajoran system for approximately two weeks. The Xhosa later returned to Deep Space 9 for a one-day layover before departing again for its next haul. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")
See also: SS Xhosa dedication plaque
- See: Xhosa personnel
The script of "For the Cause" describes the Xhosa as "the twenty-fourth century equivalent of a tramp steamer. The Bridge is laid out in a rectangular design than the circular pattern preferred by Starfleet. The rectangle runs fore and aft, with the forward end dominated by a viewscreen and the aft by a doorway. The helm control is in the center of the room and the other consoles line the two opposing walls and are usually unmanned. This is definitely a "working" ship with no frills. This is also an older vessel and should not have the clean, freshly scrubbed feeling of a Starfleet bridge". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)
In "For the Cause," the Xhosa's bridge display graphics are noticeably reminiscent of the screens seen on the bridge of the USS Enterprise on The Original Series, implying that the Xhosa may be a century old.
The studio model of the Xhosa was a repainted reuse of the Norkova from DS9: "The Passenger", which was itself a reuse of the Batris from TNG: "Heart of Glory". The model was later reused to represent a dilithium freighter in VOY: "Author, Author".
The name "Xhosa" comes from a tribe indigenous to South Africa known as the Xhosa people. It is consistently mispronounced, as the word begins with a lateral click not present in English. According to the scripts for "The Way of the Warrior"  and "For the Cause" , the word is pronounced "ZOE-sa".
During the Typhon Pact novel Plagues of Night the Xhosa is destroyed with all hands after a Tzenkethi ship collides with it, causing it to explode. Captain Yates-Sisko and Vedek Kira Nerys had moments before they left the ship to stay on Deep Space 9 to help an ongoing evacuation. However, the station was destroyed by a reactor breach seconds later, as Captain Benjamin Sisko watched from the bridge of his new starship, the Galaxy-class USS Robinson.