The Hamer people are primarily pastoralists who occupy the land southeast of the Mago National Park and beyond, stretching into the Murle Controlled Hunting Area. The Hammer territory also stretches from the lower Omo region in the west to Chew Bahir in the east, and from near the Kenyan border in the south all the way to the territory of the Benna.
The Hamer people are a large group of agro-pastoralists with a population of over 45,000. The main source of their subsistence is the cultivation of sorghum, millet, vegetables, tobacco, cotton and the herding of cattle, sheep and goat. They also gather wild honey.
The Hamer people are fine potters; additionally they take part in body decoration ceremonies wherein they adorn themselves with many beads. Hammer girls are known for their extravagant hairstyles, often adorning their hair with bright copper colored powders, and for the decorated goatskins that they wear, and the Women too adorning their necks with heavy polished iron jewelry. Hamer society consists of a complex system of age groups. Moving from one age group to another involves complicated rituals. The most significant ceremony for young men is the “jumping of the bull” – the final test before passing in to adulthood.
This often death defying ceremonial practice exists within the Hamer culture. Considered a rite of passage, the jumping of the bulls is a task that a Hamer boy must fulfill in order to pass from childhood to early adulthood. Several days before the ceremony, initiates pass out invitations in the form of blades of dried grass.
The ceremony stretches for three days; the most important day, however, is the final one, on which, late in the afternoon, roughly thirty live bulls are lined up shoulder to shoulder. The naked initiate rushes towards the animals and vaults onto the back of the first bull. He then runs across the bulls’ backs. At the end of the line, he jumps back down onto the ground, turns around, jumps back up and repeats the performance in the other direction. If an initiate falls during this process, it is considered bad luck.