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The Hamar (also spelled Hamer) are an Omotic community inhabiting southwestern Ethiopia. They live in Hamerworeda (or district), a fertile part of the Omo River valley, in the Debub Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR). They are largely pastoralists, so their culture places a high value on cattle.

Demographics

The 2003 national census reported 46,532 people in this ethnic group, of whom 10000 were urban inhabitants. The vast majority (99.13%) live in the SNNPR.

According to the Ethiopian national census of 1994, there were 42,838 Hamer language speakers, and 42,448 self-identified Hamer people, representing approximately 0.1% of the total Ethiopian population.

Culture

The Hamar are known for their unique custom of “bull jumping,” which initiates a boy into manhood. First, female relatives dance and invite whipping from men who have recently been initiated; this shows their support of the initiate, and their scars give them a say on who they marry.

The boy must run back and forth twice across the backs of a row of bulls or castrated steers, and is ridiculed if he fails.

The Assistant Administrator of Hamer Bena, Ato Imnet Gashab, has commented that only seven tribal members have ever completed secondary education. Main article: Mingi

Mingi, in the religion of the Hamar and related tribes, is the state of being impure or “ritually polluted”. A person, often a child, who was considered mingi is killed by forced permanent separation from the tribe by being left alone in the jungle or by drowning in the river.