Hamar Bull Jumping

The Hamar tribe living on the east side of the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia have some unique rituals such as a bull-jumping ceremony that men have to perform so that they reach adulthood and can get married. This coming of age ceremony is often held after the harvest is completed. The ritual comes with preparatory ceremonies, dancing, singing and drinking beer to celebrate the occasion.

In late afternoon near the village of Dimeka, people are gathering for the actual cattle jumping ceremony. At that time the singing and dancing has come to an end. Women are encouraging everybody to take their places while the men start lining up the cattle and bulls.

As a ritual to enhance the chances of fertility, and also maybe to make them more slippery, the women put dung on the backs of the selected cattle for the line up.

The Hamar women which in some way are related to the man that will be jumping the bulls, play a special role in the rituals. They take a sort of pride in the fresh and old scars that they aquired in preparatory ceremonies, by deliberately being whipped. The scars are presumed to be proof of the deep bond that exists between the women and their relatives.

The young man that is about to jump has his head partially shaved before the ceremony. He also is rubbed with sand and smeared with dung to give him strength. Then, strips of goat fat and skin are strapped round his body in a cross, to act as a form of spiritual protection.

Hamar women are playing a small horn, calling everyone's attention as the jump is about to begin.

For the actual jump, cattle and castrated bulls are lined up, counting up to fifteen to thirty animals and held in place by the men of the village. The jumper has to cross their backs four times in a row without falling before he is deemed successfull. If he falls, he may try again. But since it is such an important ritual, he will have practiced it many times before as a rehearsal.

The procedure is finished in a couple of minutes, and then evening falls over the village. People are preparing for the after ceremony, celebrating and drinking the night away.