Hamar Bull Jumping Ceremony or cattle leaping ritual is a cultural practice performed by a tribe at the Lower Omo River Valley Ethiopia. A Hamar man comes of age by leaping over a line of cattle which they call (Ukuli Bulla) in the native language and commonly called cow or bull jumping ceremony. The bull jumping ceremony qualifies a Hamar boy to marry, own cattle and have children. The timing of the leaping ceremony is decided by the man’s parents and usually happens after the harvest. Prior to the bull jumping ceremony the male Hamar who has to jump walks to neighboring settlements to announce his intent to jump and to distribute invitations (usually a strip of bark with a number of knots, one for each day left before the ceremony).
Hamar’s Cattle Jumping Marage Ceremony
On the afternoon of the leap, as guests gather, the man’s female relatives demand to be whipped as part of the ceremony. The Maza (a man who has already jumped the cattle between three months) uses a long fin stick and strikes the girls on their exposed backs. This is a consensual act, with the girls begging and singing to the Maza so that he continues whipping them. This is not only a show of strength from the girls, who proudly show off their scars, but it also symbolizes their affiliation towards their kin. Her scars are a mark of how she suffered for her brothers and relatives. The young man who is to leap has his head partially shaved. He’s rubbed with sand to wash away his sins. He’s then smeared with dung to give him strength, while strips of tree bark are strapped around his body in a cross as a form of spiritual protection.
The Maza and the elders line up between eight and twenty cows and castrated male cattle. To come of age, the man must leap across the line four times. Only when he has been through this initiation rite can he marry the wife chosen for him by his parents, and start to build up his own herd. Once his marriage has been agreed, a dowry of around twenty cattle and thirty goats must be paid to the bride’s family.
Hamar, The Cow Jumping Tribe!
Hamar and bull or cow jumping ceremonial ritual are inseparable. One striking characteristic of the Hamar men and women is that they indulge in elaborate hair-dressing. The Hamar Men wear a clay cap on their head. It is painted and decorated with feathers. They also paint themselves with white chalk paste during ceremonial events. The women decorate their hair with clay and butter twisted into a striking long plait. Almost all tribes men of the Lower Omo hold a small pillow called borkota.