Hamar & Benna: - the Bull-Jumping people

Belonging to a group of culturally distinct people known as the Sidamo are inscribed in the far South West Omotic region, beyond Mount Buska live the Hamar and Benna people. These astounding and superstitious people, were veiled in mystery for over half a century. The Hamar and Benna, are two of the Omotic speakers of remote south west Ethiopia, with unique manifestations of traditional wisdom, the 'jumping of bulls'. The purpose of this rite is twofold: while one is the passage from boyhood to adulthood, the other is the courting occasion when both men and women adorn themselves to win a mate. The men put ochre buns on their skin and head and insert ostrich feather, while the women wear their hair in short tufts rolled in ochre mixed with fat.

Most of the Hamer are cattle breeders. The Hamer live in camps that consist of several related families. The families live in tents arranged in a circle, and the cattle are brought into the center of the camp at night. When the campsite is being set up, beds for the women and young children are built first; then the tent frame is built around it. The tents are constructed with flexible poles set in the ground in a circular pattern. The poles are bent upward, joining at the top, then tied. The structures are covered with thatch during the dry season and canvas mats during the rainy season. Men and boys usually sleep on cots in the center of the camp, near the cattle. Herds belonging to the Hamer-Banna consist mainly of cattle, although there are some sheep and goats. Camels are used for riding and as pack animals. Most Hamer-Banna plant fields of sorghum at the beginning of the rainy season before leaving on their annual nomadic journey. Some households also plant sesame and beans. Because the crops are usually left unattended, the yields are low. Few households grow enough grain to last through the year. One striking characteristic of the Hamer-Banna men and women is that they indulge in elaborate hair-dressing. They wear a clay "cap" that is painted and decorated with feathers and other ornaments. Much time is spent inpreparing the hair, and care must be taken to protect it from damage. This is one reason the men often sleep on small, cushioned stools. The women use the butter for the perfect look manteinance of their hair-dressing. A well-dressed man will wear a toga-like cloth and carry a spear and a stool. Women also commonly wear colorful toga-like garments. Men may marry as many women as they like, but only within their own tribe. A "bride price" of cattle and other goods is provided by the prospectivehusband and his near relatives. A typical household consists of a woman, her children, and a male protector. A man may be the protector of more than one household, depending on the number of wives he has. Also, men are sometimes assigned the responsibility of protecting a divorced woman, a widow, or the wife of an absent husband (usually his brother). Marriage celebrations include feasting and dancing. Young girls as well as boys are circumcised. Religion of The Hamer-Banna is 90% is a kind of mixed animism. Many elements of their traditional religion are still practiced. For instance, they believe that natural objects (rocks, trees, etc.) have spirits. They also believe in jinnis, or spirits that are capable of assuming human or animal form and exercising supernatural influence over people.


Bull Jumping


Is a ceremonial activity held for a boy who is transferring from child hood to early adulthood. Several days before the ceremonies his made of honor will pass out the invitation in the form of blade of dried grass knotted in places to indicate the day when the ceremony will begin. It is three days ceremony but the last day is very important for the boy and his families. On third day late in the afternoon about thirty bulls are lined up. The naked intiates rushes towards the animal and vaults on to the first bull’s back. Then the boy runs across the line of bulls at the end of the line he jumps down turns round and then repeat the performance in the other direction.


The clay hair bun is worn by the hammer men if they have killed an enemy or dangerous animals. The bun is remade in every three – six months and can be worn for a period of up to one year after the killing.