It’s a Big Leap from Boyhood to Manhood


When males in Hamer territory in Ethiopia are ready to pass from boyhood to adulthood, they must first demonstrate their fitness for manhood. The rite of passage is a three-day event that involves the following:

  • women and girls smear dyed butter over their hair and skin, giving them a burnt-orange color, before taunting the elder males of the tribe, urging the men to whip them with thin strips of bark. In this way, the women show their support for the boys who are about to enter into manhood;
  • elder men line up cattle to stand in formation;
  • boys who are to go through the ritual are stripped bare, except for two pieces of bark  tied around his chest;
  • the boys and the cattle are rubbed down with the cattle’s excrement;
  • each boy must successfully jump over four cows or over one castrated bull four separate times.

If successful, the boy is considered a man and is allowed to marry. If unsuccessful, he must wait a year until he can attempt the ritual again.


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