The Mundari People Of South Sudan Who Bathe In Urine Of Cows To Keep Themselves Clean

These animals are treated like members of the family

The Mundari tribe in South Sudan are known for their cows which represent their wealth, status and dowry. A small ethnic group composed of cattle-herders and agriculturalists, the Mundari have come to be known for their unique way of looking after their cattle in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country.
The cows mean so much to them that they use rifles to watch over their large-horned herds, as a single cow or bull can be worth $500. Every year in South Sudan around 350,000 cows and bulls are stolen, and over 2,500 people killed by cattle rustlers. Families will sleep with their animals, wash them in ash and make sure the ground is soft and clean for them. A horned breed known as “the cattle of kings.”

The tribe use rifles to watch over their large-horned herds

Bathing with cow urine

Dawn breaks on the Nile on the Mundari cattle camp and a young tribesman begins his daily routine – after cleaning his teeth with a stick he douses his head under a stream of a urine from a cow. The act will not only help prevent infection but will also tinge his hair orange. The tribesman continues his daily ritual. Next he sucks fresh milk straight from one of his cow’s udders then bangs a drum to alert the rest of the tribe that it’s time to graze the animals.

A Mundari boy washing his head with urine of cattle

It is not just the cows’ urine that provides protection for the Mundari people. Dung is piled high into heaps for burning. The herdsmen will subsequently smear the peach-coloured ash on their skin. This serves as an antiseptic and protects them from the scorching heat. The cows are among the world’s most pampered. Mundari’s massage their animals twice a day. The ash from dung fires, as fine as talcum powder, is smeared on the cattle and used as bedding.

A Mundari man relaxes in the soft, peach-coloured ash and dust of a dung fire.

The more you see, the more you realise that there is an inextricable bond between the tribe and their cattle. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship where there is an understanding of the cattle which goes beyond normal animal husbandry. They take pride in their animals and the whole community of man and beast is interconnected.

A member of the tribe gathering dung from the ground

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Video resource: WODE MAYA

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