the Lion: By Maasai Warriors
We regret the loss of six cows, seven goats, seven sheep, one
donkey and six lions in the outskirts of Nairobi National Park.
From our sources the killing of six lions was not done to satisfy
a cultural tradition. The herdsmen hunted the lions as an act
of revenge for the loss of cattle. It is our hope that Kenya
Wildlife Service and the Maasai of Ilkeek-Lemedung'I will meet
soon and agree on a lasting solution to avert the loss of precious
lions and Maasai cattle in the future. Maasai Association does
not support lion hunt.
do Maasai warriors hunt lions?
a lion in the African savanna is an experience of a life time.
From this day your life will change forever. Hunting a lion
is traditional, fun, and dangerous. The question is, why do
the warriors do it?
following are some of the cultural reasons, strategies, and
tools used by the Maasai warriors on lion hunt.
hunt is a historical practice that played an important role
in the Maasai culture. The practice is different from trophy
hunting; it is symbolically a rite of passage rather than a
do the Maasai warriors hunt lions?
Maasai tribe sees lion hunting experience as a sign of bravery
and personal achievement. In the past, when the lion population
was high, the community encouraged solo lion hunting. However,
over the last ten years, due to the decline of the lion population,
mainly because of rabies and canine distemper virus, the community
has adapted a new rule that encourages warriors to hunt in groups
instead of solo lion hunt. Group hunting, known in Maasai as
olamayio, gives the lion population a chance to grow.
to Maasai customary laws, the warriors are not allowed to hunt
a lion, suffering from drought, snared or poison. The Maasai
believe that females are the bearers of life in every species.
As a such, it is prohibited to hunt a female lion-- unless the
lioness has posed threat to human or livestock.
Maasai understands that lions are important to the savanna's
ecology and culture. For that reason, the Maasai takes extra
caution when it comes to lion hunt. The Maasai warriors do not
just go out and hunt lions because they can. The rules are there
and are followed by every warrior
hunting experience allows the Maasai warriors to show off their
fighting ability on a non-human target. At the end of each age-set,
usually after 10-15 years, the warriors must count all the lions
hunted, then compare them with those hunted by the previous
age-set. The purpose is to compare lion hunting ageaccomplishment
between previous and current age-set.
a lion in a group
Empikas (warrior delegation) plan for lion hunting
a few days before the fact. The planning is done in a secret
manner. No one in the community, other than the warriors, should
know about the day of lion hunting. The game is so secret that
Ilbarnot (young warriors) from the same age-set are denied information
regarding lion hunting. Older warriors fears that young warriors
could immaturely release information to groups that opposed
lion hunting practice. If a warrior spreads rumors and is found
guilty, his colleagues will punish him in the form of beating.
In addition, the guilty warrior will be looked down upon throughout
his entire age group's cycle.
is not easy to hunt a lion alone. However, a many Maasai warriors
have done it. Solo lion hunting requires confidence and advance
hunting skills. A warrior must be passionate about the game.
Unlike group hunting, solo lion hunting is usually happened
at random, when the warrior is out herding cattle.
lion hunting journey starts at dawn, when elders and women are
still asleep. The warriors sneaked out of the village in order
to avoid discouragement from elders and women. They meet at
a nearby landmark, for example, a tree, hill or rock. From here,
the warriors depart to predetermined areas, where lions are
most likely to be found. The warriors usually detect a lion
by following footprints, animal droping and/ or vultures..
few minutes before departure, the warriors must go through a
sorting process. Ilmorijo (older warriors) must select a group
of qualified comrades. This group is considered mature, strong
and capable to fight a lion. The group is known as Ilmeluaya
(fearless warriors) who are ready to die or live.
(young warriors) who are disqualified would be send home for
rest. Not every warrior would accept to return home. The rejection
of young warriors has often waged a dispute between younger
and older warriors. The warriors would fight with clubs and
shields. Losers are always the younger warriors. Despite this,
they still believe that the challenge is worth a try.
fight between younger and older warriors could trigger a major
conflict among older warriors. A warrior from the dominant group
could raise a voice to defend a young warrior from his member
clan or family. This situation can push the decision making
process into extreme. Nevertheless, warriors treat group dynamics
as part of the learning process.
rejects, young warriors, are commanded by older warriors to
keep the information of lion hunting confidential, until their
colleagues return from hunting. Also, there have been cases
whereby older warriors have forced young warriors to give up
their spears and shields. This is an insult to young warriors,
as extra weapons are not necessarily needed for lion hunting.
(One spear can bring a lion down). The attitude of forcing young
warriors to give up their weapons is deemed to encourage them
to be a little more responsible.
the older warriors return home with a lion, a one-week celebration
will take place throughout communities. Women from various villages
will embrace and hug the warrior that speared the lion first.
The warrior will receive Imporro, a doubled-sided beaded shoulder
strap. The warrior would wear this ornament during the milk
ceremony, meat ceremony, and so on.
success of lion hunting brings gratitude and excitement to the
entire community. The achievement is perceived as individual
bravery. The community will honor Olmurani lolowuaru (the hunter)
with much respect throughout his lifetime. The hunter will also
receive a nickname, for example, Miseyieki, from his colleagues.
Miseyieki means no one will ever dare to mess with him. When
the warriors attend ceremonies in other communities, they will
praise their colleague through songs, so other warriors can
acknowledge their member.
do the Maasai warriors find lions?
The lions are abundant throughout Maasailand. Their typical
hideouts are grassy plains, deep forests, behind termite mounts,
under the acacia trees, and other wild cozy places. The lion
search ranges from 20 minutes to 10 hours. The Maasai warriors
must chase a lion with rattle bells and make him upset. This
chasing method forces a lion to develop anger and face the hunter.
Another successful hunting method is to force a lion to move
away from the kill. Any of these methods would provoke a fight
with a lion. The game between warriors and lions is similar
to that of a cat and a mouse.
safe environment when hunting a lion
a lion inside intensely vegetated area can be extremely dangerous.
The lion is as smart as men, and can maneuver through the bushes
faster than a human being. For this reason, the Maasai warriors
prefer to fight lions in the open plains. This is the best decision
to make and best place to be. By doing so, the warrior would
give a lion a chance to fight. Lion hunting is all about challenging
another creature without cheating. Facing a lion in the open
savanna is a memory of a life time!
do the Maasai do with a dead lion?
Maasai depend strictly on livestock (cow, sheep and goat) and
do not eat game meat. Three products are used from the lion:
the mane, tail and claws. The mane is beautifully
beaded by women of the community, and given back to the hunter.
The mane is won over the head, only during special occasions.
The mane helps warrior from far communities to identify the
the meet ceremony, when a warrior becomes a junior elder, he
must throw the lion mane away. The warrior must make a sacrificial
event for the mane prior to throwing it. At this time, the warrior
must slaughter a sheep and grease the mane with a mixture of
sheep oil and ochre. This sacrificial event is done to avoid
bad spirits. The mane has special spiritual attachment to the
warrior. It is a must for a warrior to honor the mane.
lion tail is stretched and soften by the warriors, then hand
it over to women of the community for beading. The warriors
will receive the tail back when the beading service is complete.
The warriors will keep and guide the lion's tail in their manyatta
(warriors camp), until the end of warriorhood. The lion tail
is the most valuable product in the practice of lion hunting.
After graduation, a group of warriors must gather to pay their
last special respect to the tail. The tail is thrown away after
the eunoto ceremony.
do the Maasai warriors pursue a lion tail?
way of pursuing the lion's tail varied from section to section.
For example, in the Irkaputiei section, when a lion is hunted,
the warriors must wrestle in order to obtain the tail. The tail
goes to the strongest warrior. In Irkisonko section, the tail
goes to the warrior who first speared the lion.
lion hunting game is about personal assignment, goal and dedication.
The game is based on your background, environment and culture.
The warriors do not need to attend a gym, and do not need a
rifle for lion hunting. All you need is one spear and one shield.
Keep in mind that many warriors have been lost to lions.
The ideas, strategies, and tools shared
in this chapter can only work in the Maasai world. Please do
not attempt to use these ideas in your backyard! This is not
a manual for lion hunting, rather information about the Maasai