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The Nuer are one of the largest ethnic groups, numbering approximately 200,000, in Southern Sudan and western Ethiopia. The Nuer were one of the very few African groups that successfully fended off colonial powers in the early 1900s. The Nuer are a pastoral people that rely on cows for almost every aspect of their daily lives.

Nuer warriors were noted as some of the most skilled in East Africa, with weapons made of fine crafted iron. Since the Nuer were so successful at fending off European powers, they spent much of their time interacting with a bordering African group called the Dinka. Often relations between the two groups were tense; the Nuer would often conduct very successful cattle raids against the Dinka. The Nuer group had a smaller population than the Dinka group, but were very well organized.

Cows are exchanged between the Nuer and are used as currency in their own group. E. E. Evans-Pritchard studied the Nuer and made very detailed accounts of his interactions. In his book, Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People, describes, among other things, Nuer cosmology. He elaborates more on it in his other book, Nuer Religion.

The Nuer are an example of what is called an acephelous society, being divided into tribes that lack common organization, but may sometimes join together for common benefit.



The Nuer receive facial markings (scarification) as part of their initiation into adulthood.

The pattern of Nuer scarification varies within specific subgroups. One common initiation pattern consists of six parallel horizontal lines across the forehead, with dip in the lines above the nose. Dotted patterns are also common (especially among the Bul Nuer) but are perhaps more closely associated with the Dinka.

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The tribe speak the Nuer language, which belongs to the Nilo-Saharan language phylum. The eastern Nuer border the Dinka tribe.

Typical food eaten by the Nuer tribe (or at least some, who lived in Ethiopia while growing up) include beef, sourdough corn ball pasta, Injera bread (large, sour dough pancake) and mangos.

The Nuer classify children born with extreme physical or mental disabilities as baby hippopotamus and send them down the river. ?

There are many Nuer people living in Nebraska, and Washington State.

Naming conventions

  • Nya (nee ya) is the standard prefix used for female names
  • Children are commonly numbered
  • Niel means rain, and is a common name for males.
  • The father's family name is incorporated into the child's full name


Many Nuer live in areas affected by the Second Sudanese Civil War. Indeed the Nuer are actively involved in the war against the northern government. At the same time they are involved in a separate war with the Dinka.

See also

External link

Images of Nuer in the village of Leal, Southern Sudan (


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