6 March 2017

Sudan: A Tour of Kordofan Countrside Heritage (3)


The Sheep-breeders are the people who own, raise and practice trade in sheep which are found in Kordofan in large numbers of species internationally known as the Hamary sheep (owned by Hamar tribe).

These sheep are characterized by plentiful meat, red colour and long tail that drags on the ground. The tail ends in a white or black mark, bluish black wide eyes, a blue-lined tongue, a big udder and straight legs with clean nails. They eat a lot and drink a little, graze at night and go to bed during daytime and the female gives birth twice or thrice a year.

Dr. Doleeb Mahmoud Doleeb, a writer and researcher in Kordofan heritage in the University of Kordofan and chairman of the Kordofan heritage association, speaking on this kind of sheep, said:- "The Hamary female sheep resembles a beautiful woman in walking and physique. It walks in isolation from the herd, either on one side, in the front or the rear and like the woman, its voice is not loud and it stands first on the hind legs and then on the front pair. And except for exigencies, the owner never sells the female sheep which enjoys a special treatment by the owner and the shepherd.

The sheep shepherd possesses a whistle which blows for calling the members of the herd together and each shepherd has a special tone for collecting the herd and some of them favor certain tones to which they become addict.

Some of the sheep are inclined to loneliness and wandering and sometimes go astray from the herd and for this reason a small bell is hung to the neck to locate the missing member of the herd.

There are a number of schools for grazing sheep; the first factor to rely on is the honest shepherd who plays a significant role in breeding and caring for the animals, particularly in summer when the water a scarce, except in areas where water wells, pools and reservoirs are available, requiring a great effort. In autumn and during its early days when some kinds of poisonous grass grow, the sheep must be strictly observed and prevented from eating such grass. The sheep shepherd is named Kasbour which means he is capable of identifying the trace of a sheep even if it mingles with thousands of its kind.

"The Hamar and other tribes which breed sheep divide the shepherds into three levels, like the educational ladder. There is the young shepherd who is in charge of the offspring in absence of their mothers which are away for grazing and he is paid a monthly wage.

"Then comes the second, or medium-level shepherd who moves with the sheep from one place to another in search of water and grass. He follows the sheep and waters them on the weekly watering day, being mindful that the sheep do not bear thirst.

"He is also responsible for the nightly grazing and detecting the grazing course and for notifying the herd owner of any missing sheep.

"The medium-level shepherd is entitled the rights of provision of food, drink, clothing and medical service by the owner of the sheep.

"He is paid an annual wage in-kind ranging from 10 to 30 heads of sheep- both male and female, in addition to a gift that is offered on Fitr and Curban bairam eids.

"The third, nicknamed university shepherd, is not paid a wage in cash, and he has to exert tremendous efforts for rearing the sheep so properly that each female sheep can give birth to three twins so that the first and third twins be given to the owner and the middle one the shepherd.

"This shepherd has a peculiar way for achieving this goal; at first, he separates a specific number of female sheep from the remaining members of the herd and keeps one lamb with them. He imposes a special programme for this group, making them take a siesta under shady trees, never drink when it is hot and are given salt only after the siesta. The shepherd feeds the sheep on sayyal and other kinds of trees and dry water melons.

"The segregated sheep are prevented from walking during daytime and from walking long distances. After conception, the shepherd takes another group of females with one lamb for a similar programme under which a female can deliver three twins each year.

Besides sheep, those tribes breed goats as an additional product for local consumption, hospitality and for day-to-day purchases (sugar, tea, soap) and for emergency expenses (the white piastre for the black day). No great effort is required for breeding goats which is made within the village and in most cases by grandmother and widows. They are bred for their meat and milk, especially for children and also for adults. The goat shepherd is nicknamed the "dawdaw" for wandering a lot; the term also implies absent-mindedness.

The customs and traditions of the tribes which breed sheep are similar and are also in line with the camel and cattle breeders, particularly as regards travels and movements in search of water and pasture, although the sheep and goats travel for relatively short distances because, unlike camels and cattle, they bear thirst.

"It is characteristic of the sheep grazers to travel across the plains and valleys throughout the year and stay near the water sources. They remain awake by night and sleep by daytime away from the village or hamlet and beside the herds.

They rarely mingle with the villagers, except in the two eids and on wedding or jubilation occasions. The weddings of the sheep-breeders do not greatly differ from the other tribes as the choice of the future bride in most cases is made by the relatives and the engagement, dowry and fixing the wedding date are made as usual.

They get together for chatting and singing at night and on the social and religious occasions and each occasion has its special singing.

They are usually linked to the other communities with ties of trade and exportation based on the quality, quantity and age of each sheep and those which bring in prices higher than the others. The hakkamat (the woman singers) encourage breeding and exportation of the fat sheep which earn much money for buying necessities.

They have a special means of communication with their sheep by the whistle that is made of wood or metal. The sheep recognize and distinguish the tones and sometimes feel elated and addict to certain tones.

"The sheep-breeders mark each sheep with a tattoo on the ear that is common to all members of the herd so as to make more recognizable in case it is lost or stolen. The tattooing is normally carried out in the Higri month of Rajab as a good omen.

"During heavy rainfall, the sheep is covered with canvas and away from big trees, fearing wild animals, falling branches, or the lethal carbon dioxide they may inhale.

"The grazers also make fire during the night to keep snakes, scorpions and other insects away from the sheep and they possess roots of certain trees which they believe are anti-poisonous, insisting those roots are experienced.

"People say that a sheep grazer is of poor faculties because he relies mainly on milk as food and drinks little water. His food is made up of sheep milk and millet dough buried in the ash to be cooked. The sheep grazers, nonetheless, possesses full knowledge of the whereabouts of the dense forests and rich pastures.

"The sheep-breeding tribes get together around the villages and hamlets and are cautious against letting their animals go into farms and damage the harvest. For this reason, there is a law made by the native administration forbidding the sheep from entering the farms. In case the harvest is destroyed by the sheep, committees are formed of the sheikh and dignitaries of the village for assessment of the damage and the owner of the herd is ordered to pay the damages. Such a committee is formed as a token of good neighborliness or an alliance of two tribes. It is authorized to cut down the compensation in observance of the good-neighbor ties.

It case of the occurrence of violence or murder, the incident is examined by the judiyah (mediation) committee which comprises the Nazir or Shartay, the sheikhs of the villages and hamlets and the relatives of the murderer and the murdered and reconciliation is concluded and the parties swear to observe the agreement.

The sheep owners also have their own common ways of sitting and they maintain close links between them therefore every one of them can easily recognize his colleague by his way of sitting and clothing.


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