Ways of lives


The staple food of the Banyankole was millet. It was supplemented with Bananas, potatoes and cassava. A rich and prosperous family was judged by its ability t maintain food supplies throughout the year. The main sauces were beans, peas, and ground nuts plus a variety if greens such as eshwiga, enyabutongo, dodo, ekyijamba, omuriri and some others as well as meat of both domestic and wild animals.


Bahima herders consume milk and butter and drink fresh blood from their cattle. The staple food of a herder is milk. Beef is also very important. Millet porridge that is made from grains and sorghum obtained from the Bairu and Bakiga unlike the Bahima and Banyarwanda with milk. Buttermilk is drunk by women and children only. When used as a sauce, butter is mixed with salt, and meat or millet porridge is dipped into it.

Traditionally, Children can eat rabbit, but men can eat only the meat of the cow or the buffalo and Herders never eat chicken or eggs. Women consume mainly milk, preferring it to all other foods. There is the special way of preparing the food like the millet bread (Karo/Oburo) that are prepared from the special pots and served form the special baskets to keep them warm, and way how matoke is prepared to form the brownish and delicious food as it is wrapped in the banana leaves for adding the flavor and made to stay on the fire for a long time.



Dress differentiates Banyankole by rank and gender. Chiefs traditionally wore long robes of cow skins. Ordinary citizens commonly were attired in a small portion of cow skin over their shoulders. Women of all classes wore cow skins wrapped around their bodies. They also covered their faces in public.

In modern times, cotton cloth has come to replace cow skins as a means of draping the body. For special occasions, a man might wear a long, white cotton robe with a Western-style known as Kanzu with a coat over it. Today, Banyankole wear Western-style clothing. Dress suitable for agriculture such as overalls, shirts, and boots is popular.



Social relations among the Banyankole cannot be understood apart from rank. In the wider society, the Omugabe (king) and chiefs had authority over herders (Bahima). The Bahima had authority over the Bairu (farmers). Within the family, husbands had authority over wives, and older children had authority over younger ones. Inheritance typically involved the eldest son of a man’s first wife, who succeeded to his office and property. Relations between fathers and sons and between brothers were formal and often strained. Mothers and their children, and brothers and their sisters, were often close.

Social relations in the community centered around exchanges of wealth, such as cows and agricultural produce. The most significant way that community solidarity was and still is expressed is through the elaborate exchange of formalized greetings. Greetings vary by the age of the participants, the time of day, the relative rank of the participants, and many other factors. Anyone meeting an elder has to wait until the elder acknowledges that person first.

The people live in the communities where there are many houses in the same place that is more common in the Bahima and Banyarwanda. This was mainly because the people wanted to ensure unity among the people and protection of the animals in case of the attack by the animals at night. The parents also wanted the sons and the grandchildren to remain near them so that they can be taught the good morals by their parents and grandparents.

Blood Brotherhood

The Banyankole had the practice of making blood brother hood. A person would make a blood brother in a ceremony known as Okikora omukago. The actual ceremony involved the two people sitting on a mat so close together that their legs would overlap. In their right hands, they would hold sprouts of ejubwe type of grass and a sprout of omurinzi tree (erythina tomentosa). The Bairu would hold in addition a sprout of omutosa (fig) tree (ficus eryobotrioides).


The master of ceremonies would make a small cut to the right of the naval of each man. The end of omurinzi tree and ejubwe grass were dipped in the blood on the incision and put into the hands of each person. For the Bahima, only the mutoma sprout was used. Then a little milk or millet flour was poured in the blood in case of the Bairu and each man would hold the other’s hand with the left and they would both swallow the blood and the milk or the blood and the millet flour in each other’s hand at the same time. Blood brother hood could not be made between people of the same clan because naturally, they would be regarded as brothers. Blood brothers would treat each other as real brothers in every respect.



Okuteera oruhoko was a phrase used to describe the practice whereby a boy whom the girls had deliberately refused to love or whom a particular girl had rejected could force the girl to marry him abruptly without her consent and much preparation.

The practice of okuteera oruhoko was characteristic of the traditional Ankole society but vestiges of it still appear. Society decried this practice but it was common and helpful, nonetheless. However, the offender had to be fined by paying a big bride wealth. There were various ways in which this practice was carried out.


One such ways was by using a cock. A boy who had desired and wished to marry a girl who had rejected him, would get hold of a cock, go to the girl’s homestead, throw the cock in the compound and ran away. The girl had to be whisked to the boy’s home immediately because it was believed and feared that should the cock crow when the girl was still at home, refusing to follow the boy or making unnecessary preparations, she or somebody else in the family would instantly die.

Another type of Oruhoko was done by smearing millet flour on the face of the girl. If the boy chanced to find the girl grinding millet he would pick some flour from the winnowing tray used to collect the flour as it comes off the grinding stone and smear it on the  girl’s face. The boy would run away and swift arrangements would be made to send him the girl as any delays and excuses would cause consequences similar to those methods described above.


Among the Bahima especially, there were three other ways in which the okuteera oruhuko would be done. One of them was for the boy to put a tethering rope around the neck of the girl and then pronounce in public that he had done so. The second one was to put a plant known as orwihura on the girl’s head; and the third one was for the boy to sprinkle milk on the girl’s face while milking. It should be pointed out that this practice was only possible if the girl and the boy were from different clans.

Oruhuko was a dangerous and degrading practice. It was usually tried by boys who failed to have alternatives. If the boy was not lucky enough to elude and run faster than the relatives of the girl, it was however usually done so abruptly that before the girl’s relatives could get organized, the boy would have disappeared. The punishment was usually inflicted on the boy through the payment of too much bride wealth. He would pay double or normal charge or even more. The extra cows which were charged were not refunded if the marriage broke up.



Whenever beer was made, the Banyankole had what they called entereko. If someone brewed beer, he had to reserve some for the neighbours as a sign of belonging and good neighbourliness. This beer so reserved was known as entereko.

Normally, one or two days after someone had brewed beer, he would call his neighbours and serve then the reserved beer. This practice was so important that anyone who failed to comply with it was considered a bad neighbour. During the service of the entereko, the men would discuss important matters of substance that affected their area. The traditional dance among the Banyankore was called ekyitaguriro and men and women would participate in it. The Bahima also sang and made competitive recitals connected with valour in wars of offences and defence and about cattle.


Making fire

The Banyankole specifically have their way of making fire where by they use the piece of dry wood and rubbing it with the other to produce fire. This is commonly known as Okusiinga oburindi. It was very common among the hunters as they could not be having the other way of making fire there in the wild.



Traditionally, the normal pattern was for both the parents of the boy and the girl to arrange the marriage, sometimes without the knowledge of the girls concerned. The initiative was normally taken by the boy’s parents and upon the payment of an appropriate bride wealth; arrangements would be made to fetch the bride. Customarily, a girl could not be offered for marriage when her elder sister or sisters were still unmarried. If a marriage offer was made for a young sister, it is said that the girl’s parents would manipulate issues in such a way that at the giving- away ceremony, they would conceal and send the elder sister.


When the bridegroom would come to know it he was not supposed to raise questions. He could go ahead and pay more bride wealth and then go ahead and marry the young sister if he could afford it. It was the responsibility of the father to pay in full the bride wealth and meet all the other costs of arranging his son’s marriage.

If the parents of the girl were aware that their daughter was not virgin, the information was formally communicated to the husband by giving the girl, among the other gifts, a perforated coin or another hollow object.


Family Life

Among the Bahima, a young girl was prepared for marriage beginning at about age ten, though sometimes as early as eight. Marriages often occurred before a girl was sexually mature, or soon after her initial menstruation. For this reason, teenage pregnancies before marriage were uncommon. Polygamy (multiple wives) was associated with rank and wealth that still exist. Marriages were alliances between clans and large extended families. Among both the Bahima and the Bairu, pre-marital virginity was valued.

Today, Christian marriages are common. The value attached to extended families and the importance of having children have persisted as measures of a successful marriage. Monogamy is now the norm. Marriages occur at a later age than in the past, due to the attendance at school of both girls and boys. As a consequence, teenage pregnancies out of wedlock have risen. Girls who become pregnant are severely punished by being dismissed from school or disciplined by parents. For this reason, infanticide is now more common than in the past, given that abortion is not legal in Uganda



Among the Bahima, the major occupation was tending cattle. Every day the herder traveled great distances in search of pasture. Young boys were responsible for watering the herd. Teenage boys were expected to milk the cows before they were taken to pasture. Women cooked food, predominantly meat, to be taken daily to their husbands. Girls helped by gathering firewood, caring for babies, and doing household work. Men were responsible for building homes for their families and pens for their cattle.

Among the Bairu, both men and women were involved in agricultural labour, although men cleared the land. Millet was the main food crop. Secondary crops were plantains, sweet potatoes, beans, and groundnuts (peanuts). Maize (corn) was considered a treat by the children. Children participated in agriculture by chasing birds away from the fields.

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  1. Pingback: Welcome to Ntungamo Guide | Ntungamo Travel Guide

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