Hamar Bull Jumping Ceremony

hamar bull (cow) jumping

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.

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Omo Valley Tours

I Minalu Adem , founder of Omo Valley Travel and Tours, was born and raised in Jinka, South Omo Zone, SNNPR Ethiopia a town in Omo Valley in the middle of several tribes, I worked as a local guide from 1999 - 2001 while attending my last three years of high school. From 2002 to 2008, I went to university and studied Business Management and Economics. Afterwards, driven to return to my passion of working in tourism, I completed my tour guide training then worked as a Tour Leader and CEO for G Adventures Ethiopia until 2014. I have great love for my country, particularly its culture and nature and I am proud to show my beautiful country, particularly the Omo Valley, in such a unique way.
In 2014, I started a tour company called Omo Valley Travel and Tours, which is a local Omo Valley tour operator (travel agency) providing visitors with the best cultural and nature experience possible in the Lower Omo River Valley, Ethiopia. Working in partnership with local tribal communities, Omo Valley Travel & Tours provides responsible and enriching tours that celebrate the diverse traditions and landscapes of Africa's last frontier.
I published my first book about Omo Valley tribes, in 2014 titled, “A Guide To The Tribes, Omo Valley”. The second volume was published in 2017, which is a new and improved version of the first edition of the guide, featuring updated information and new photographs. Additionally, I am working on an even more comprehensive volume about the Omo Valley tribes to publish as an eBook that will be available online soon.
Drawing on my experience and passion, I am sharing a lot essential information about the history, traditions, customs and much more information about the incredible Omo River Valley region. I hope that these information will enrich each reader’s / visitor’s experience and knowledge, as well as create a deeper cross-cultural understanding.

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