Object: Goat Muzzle

Kara: Basketry Goat Muzzle
Eastern Africa
20th Century
Materials: Grass, straw

This object is a basketry goat muzzle from Ukara Island in northern Tanzania. Ukara Island is a small island (77 km²) located in the southeastern part of Lake Victoria (formerly known as Lake Noubaale). The name Ukara means Land (u) of the Spirit (ka) of the Sun (ra). Because of its small size and population density, most of the land on Ukara Island is privately owned so that every available acre can be farmed. The demands of agricultural production have resulted in Ukarans replacing most of the vegetation indigenous to the island with plants farmed for subsistence purposes. Millet, cassava, rice, and vegetables are staple crops, but many families also raise cattle fodder to feed several head of cattle for manure production. Because of the limited farmland, Ukarans are careful to keep the soil fertile, productive, and nutrient-rich with composted manure. Families can spend up to 12 hours a day transporting manure to fields and working fertilization into the soil.

Basketry muzzles like the one above, are used by Ukarans to keep their herds of sheep and goats from eating grasses or crops owned by someone else. Goats are kept in grass huts when not grazing on private fodder, but while being moved to water sources, they can be muzzled to discourage them from grazing along the way. This basketry muzzle is woven from narrow grass stems and straw. It contains two twisted fiber cords at each end for tying around the head of a goat. Some goats are not required to wear muzzles because they are considered sacred. When a witch doctor places the spirit of a departed ancestor in a goat, the animal is not muzzled. Instead, bells are used to signify their sacredness.

[Lauren Simons]

2 Responses to “Object: Goat Muzzle”

  1. 1 Annette-Susan Ivanova June 27, 2011 at 10:36 am

    I am one of the many volunteer editors of the Bulgarian Wikipedia (bg.wikipedia.org), the free encyclopedia. I found your photoe doing research for my article about Ukara Island, and thought your image is so interesting. Would you be so kind to enable me to use it in my article? There are no photos of this island in the photo-base all over the Wiipedias in the world. But you have to know, that all the materials in Wikipedia are free and under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License. We will write your name or nickname as an author of these photos, if we receive your authorization. If you agree, please, write me a letter to my e-mail that you agree this photo to be published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License. You may reed all about the licenses here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons If you agree to provide us with your photos, Wikipedia editors around the world will have the right to use it for their articles.

    Thank you for your time.

    Annette-Susan Ivanova

  1. 1 African Goat Muzzles | All Things Goat Trackback on February 10, 2010 at 2:04 pm

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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