Cattle are at the heart of the Maasai way of life. From being a food source to serving as construction material for their homes, cattle have been an essential part of Maasai culture, business, and tradition for centuries. 

The Maasai believe that God gave them their land for the cattle to live on, which influenced their nomadic lifestyle. As they move across the land, they search for the best pastures to feed their cows. Aside from being a source of meat and milk, the Maasai

extract blood to drink using a bow and arrow. Sometimes the blood is mixed with milk and is enjoyed during celebrations. The Maasai also use the horn of the cow during celebrations or festivities. Elder community members will put alcohol into the hollow horns and drink out of them, and the horns are also blown during traditional ceremonies. In addition to using cattle for food, drink, and celebrations, the cow dung plays a vital role in constructing Maasai homes, or bomas. Traditional bomas are made from a combination of cow dung and dirt. The dung acts as a cement to hold the dirt together and even holds up well in the rain! 

Cattle also serve as an important mechanism for economic transactions between the Maasai. If you need to visit the village medicine man, be sure to bring cattle so that you leave with the medicine you need! Cattle are also used to pay for food, goods, and even dowries. As Maasai grow up, they accumulate more and more cattle, which is a sign of wealth.

Never ask a Maasai how much cattle they have – the Maasai believe that counting cattle brings bad luck! The Maasai also do not assign numbers to their cattle. They think that if you genuinely love your cattle, you should know them by heart. Each cow has different markings, which allows the Maasai to tell them apart. The Maasai deeply care about and respect their cattle, which is why it is critical to support their pastoral ways of life.