The Mundari: The Tribe That Uses Cow-Urine Showers As A Natural Antiseptic To Fight Infection

South Sudan is the world’s youngest country since it gained independence in 2011.

The tribes of South Sudan are among the tallest people in the world, and many Mundari men and women tower over their cows and bulls but their diet is pretty much milk and yoghurt. They sometimes drink the milk directly from the cow’s udder.

A Mundari boy drinking milk straight from the cow’s udder. Picture by Tariq Zaidi.

Life in the Mundari tribe of South Sudan revolves around their prized bulls. These cows grow up to eight feet tall and are worth as much as $500 each. They represent their wealth, status and dowry. Most people even have their favourite cows.

These cows are rarely killed for its meat, rather, they are pharmacies, dowries and even friends.

The dung of cows are piled high into heaps for burning and the fine peach-coloured ash left is used as another form of antiseptic and sunscreen by the herdsmen, shielding them from the 115-degree heat.

A Mundari man relaxes in the soft, peach-coloured ash and dust of a dung fire. Picture by Tariq Zaidi.

Since the civil war has ended, many men have returned to South Sudan looking for wives and this has pushed up the ‘bride price’, making these animals even more precious and increasing lethal cattle raids.

A boy holding his favourite cow. Picture by Tariq Zaidi.

To keep themselves clean, Mundari men will squat under streams of cow urine, which they see as a natural antiseptic to fight infection and they, in turn, dye their hair orange.

Mundari men will squat under streams of cow urine, which they see as a natural antiseptic to fight infection. Picture by Tariq Zaidi

They have V scars on their foreheads and they like wrestling and music.

A Mundari woman with the ritual facial scarring and covered in dung ash. Picture by Tariq Zaidi.

All the Mundari want to do is take care of their livestock. They will protect them at all costs.

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