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Ankole Culture

If you happen to trace roots of the beginning of human race to tell culture mainly people and their culture are inseparable. There are a number of outstanding features that make the Ankole people arguably one of the most ethnically exciting and rich group of people.

There are two main aspects of the Ankole culture and that is cattle and land tilling. These lay a mark on the diversity within the Ankole culture that any stranger may get a thought that Ankole comprises of two tribes. One side behaves in a completely dissimilar manner as compared to the other however this distinction is an expression of diversity and also referred to as a coat of many colors. This immersion of culture will leave you with pleasure and wonders just as you experience the layers of culture in the Ankole region.

The Bahima – cattle herders

This emanates from a native mythology linking the long-horned Ankole to the demi-gods known as the BaChwezi. They were thought to live in caves in the underground but moved the whole earth looking for people with compassion, candor, warmth and inclination on the Ankole cow.  According to a local myth, one of the princesses of these gods moved upstairs to get water and eventually she was struck by the beauty and attractiveness of a good looking man who she fell in love with. The princess invited the man home and they got married officially and when time reached for going back on earth, they were rewarded by the gods who gave them a number of gifts which included the long horned Ankole cows. This meant that anyone that can win the heart of a divine princess was worth to look after sublime cows, said the half gods.

The focal element for the survival and daily sustenance of these people has been the long horned cattle right from the break of the day to the evening hours. Their routine involves getting up early in the morning; go for milking which is done with bare hands which is followed by setting the cows to graze. The herders let the cows roam around the grasslands in the morning, mid-day hours and in the afternoon; the herder takes the cows to water.  The story of this custom gives you an impression of the simplistic life but requires one day to elaborate the science that has remained in the domain of few people but is worth a pause and stand in admiration.

Besides looking after cows, the typical lifestyle of the Bahima people derive their survival in terms of income on also making and selling of animal products. These include products that are partial to the Bahima people and aren’t found in other animal rearing community like the “eshabwe” a native royal pudding that is an exceptional delicacy, “ekyanzi” that is reserved for the royals and is made from ghee, “obutahe” which is a body perfumed cream that is also made out of ghee.

The cultivators

A woman, her hoe and a child strapped around her back makes a typical sight in the cultivating communities of the Ankole region. Work is mainly done in the morning hours before the sun makes its strong set as women do the digging with hoes and work until it is too hot. They travel long distances to work and work varying hours of the day. Most of the trading centers in the Ankole area are run by men from cultivating communities who do trade sometimes near their homes and away from home. The staple crops are maize, cassava, potatoes, matooke and beans.

The men from the cultivating communities generally do trade, sometimes near home and at times away and far from home. The trading centers in the Ankole areas are for the most part run by men from these cultivating communities. Women grow and provide for the food in the homes whilst men bring in the other household necessities. The main staple crops are maize, cassava, matooke, potatoes, beans and millet. Crops are grown all year round thus work is all year round.

Some of the remarkable customs include:

The dress code

The Ankole herdsmen dress like the Masai men with multi-colored wrappers that are common during hot seasons to support splendor and easiness. They usually put on their attire with a straw hat as young men prefer toupees. In a rainy season the attire becomes a warmer and currently jeans might go through the savannah grazing lands.

The Bahima ladies are ever in elegant clothes that consists mainly traditional clothes of ekitambi, eshuka and omwenda that are a combination of the African version of the Indian sari with a mantle thrown over the ladies shoulders and the cover the whole body.

Whereas the cultivating Ankole men do not have a unique dress code other than on occasions where they put on their traditional garment known as the ekanzu and women do dresses.

Their marriage

The Bahima have diverse marriages and one is expected to go into marriage at a minimum age of 16 years. It is the duty of the intending groom to choose a suitable bride and this is followed by a number of negotiations with the family of the potential bride. There are a number of ceremonies and rituals that are held until the final dowry is accepted though it’s no longer a strict norm. The bride and groom do not see each other until the day of marriage. Polygamy is a reflection of a lot of wealth among the cattle herders and divorce is a rarity among the Bahima.

The children

These have always been a crown to every family in the Ankole land as they are regarded to as a blessing. For any married couple to be confirmed they are expected to have children and in case there is delayed childbirth in a married couple, a suspicion of child barrenness always comes up.

The first born enjoys most of the privileges over the other siblings and inheritance is always passed onto the heir. A son receives preferential treatment and in case there are no sufficient resources to take the kids to school, girls will be passed over and the chance is given to a boy.


These people do not boast of world class designs as they have always set up their residential houses with a practical usage in their mind than for display. Before the modern tents were invented in the Banyankole, they had started the art of making circular huts out of grass and sticks. These materials were common among the Ankole communities, easy to find and put up a shelter in less than half a day and also put up a shelter that could last for years. On the other hand cultivating communities opt for similar style of building though theirs were mainly made of wattle and sticks. There are numerous distinctions between the cow herding and the cultivating communities in regard to housing estates. Bahima mainly live in collective quarters, which are chiefly centered on the hut of the head of the family.


This is a staple of the Ankole people that consists of millet bread which is consumed with relish. Millet is traditionally is stored in silos that are built out of wattle and daub. These are set up in an oval shape and lie behind of the head of the family and these can store millet up to four years.



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