The last kicks of a cherished tradition

Sunday August 26 2012

Elders enjoying raw blood. Sometimes the blood is taken directly or mixed wth milk.

Elders enjoying raw blood. Sometimes the blood is taken directly or mixed wth milk. Below, a man spears a cow. Photos by Steven Ariong 

By Steven Ariong

The culture of eating raw blood, which was done on a daily basis in Karamoja region, is currently disappearing following the reduction of animals’ population in the region.

Those who know the history of the Karimojong can tell that from the early 1970s up to late 1990, the Karimojong were fully pastoralists by nature and their love for cattle was intense. Cows were regarded as a means of livelihood and for paying bride wealth. The bride wealth ranged from one hundred to two hundred heads of cattle.

In the custom of blood-letting from the cow to eat the curdled blood, the Karimojong came to be known for their love for cows. When it is time for eating, each homestead would go to the cow and draw blood from the animal, treat it to make it solid then eat. The blood is got from the cow and mixed with milk.

The blood was supplemented with meat, millet, sorghum and beans and when the cows or goat died, they would eat the meat but they would never naturally kill them for food. When they are eating those animals that accidentally died, they will eat the whole carcass save for the hides, horns and hooves. Six-months- old babies were given blood when the milk become inadequate from the breast.

How they get blood
This was done by shooting an arrow through the jugular vein of the cow. Blood would gush out and the women would collect it using calabashes. After collecting it from the cow, they would stir it using special sticks until the fibrin separated from the blood. The fibrin given to the dogs during times of plenty but during the dry season, people would cook it and eat it.

The blood liquid, which remained was mixed with an equal amount of milk, and the mixture would make a meal of the family. This mixture was not cooked but was simply drunk, and during the rainy season, where there was enough grass for grazing, this was the only meal eaten twice a week as a diet while millet and maize flour was eaten daily.


However, that is now history with the current generation of Karimojong. The number of animals that were used to get blood have reduced due to the conflicts of cattle rustling.

Currently, a family that used to have 1,000 or 3,000 head of cows now has two and other homesteads have nothing. Simon Lokut, a 69 -year- old elder and a resident of Iriiri sub-County in Napak District, praises the blood as a highly nutritious meal, which could not allow malnutrition to affect the children like is the case today.

“Any meeting without raw blood prepared would not yield good discussion,” he narrates. Mark Lokol, another elder, says the appetite of blood eating is still high among the people of Karamoja but because of the loss of animals, they cannot do anything.