The Bull Jumping and Whipping Rituals of Ethiopia’s Hamer Tribe

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Image: Ngaire Lawson

The hot air is filled with dust and an atmosphere of excitement. Animals are being rounded up and men select switches (flexible wooden rods), which will soon be used to draw human blood. It’s an important day for the tribe, and for one man in particular, who will later be initiated into adulthood. Beer and food are passed around, and everyone looks forward to the impending ritual.


Image: Ngaire Lawson

If the boy at the center of the festivities feels a little pensive, it wouldn’t be surprising. Why? Because later on, he will need to summon all his strength and agility for a huge leap over a line of cattle that he will need to successfully complete in order to enter adulthood.

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Image: Ngaire Lawson

The Hamer people of the Omo Valley in Ethiopia have lived their lives virtually undisturbed by outsiders for centuries. What’s more, the region in which they live is even more ancient. The site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and according to UNESCO, the area is “unlike any other place on Earth in that so many different types of people have inhabited such a small area of land over many millennia.” Today’s colorful ritual is just one small aspect of an area rich in both history and culture.

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