LOCATION: From the western part of West Africa (Senegambia) to Chad in the east (some groups reaching as far as the Nile river in the countries of Sudan and Ethiopia); largest concentrations in Nigeria, Senegal, and Guinea

POPULATION: More than 6 million

LANGUAGE: Fulfulde; Arabic; French; English



The Fulani peoples (also known as Fulbe or Peuls ) live in West Africa. They are among the most widely dispersed and culturally diverse peoples in all of Africa. Many Fulani trace their beginnings back one thousand years to the Senegambia area. By the eighteenth century some had migrated as far east as the Niger and Benue Rivers (now in Nigeria). In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some Fulani populations adopted the Islamic religion and initiated jihads (holy wars) in several parts of West Africa.

Today, one finds both nomadic, pastoral Fulani (mbororo'en) and settled Fulani (Fulbe wuro). The pastoral Fulani (full-time cattle keepers) move about with their cattle for much of the year. In contrast, the settled Fulani live permanently in villages and cities. Although both groups share a common language and origin, they regard themselves as only distantly related.


The largest concentrations of Fulani are in the countries of Nigeria, Senegal, and Guinea. In these countries, Fulani became the ruling class and intermarried with the local populations. The total Fulani population numbers more than 6 million.


The language of the Fulani is known as Fulfulde (or Fula or Pulaar). There are at least five major dialects: Futa Toro, Futa Jallon, and Masina in the west and Central Nigeria; and Sokoto and Adamawa in the east. Although they have similarities in grammar and vocabulary, communication among Fulani from different regions is difficult. As Muslims, many Fulani can read and write Arabic.

An example of a saying in Fulfulde is Tid'd'o yod'ad'd'o (Work hard and succeed). An example of a Fulani proverb is: Hab'b'ere buri ginawol (Actions should be judged according to intention).


Despite the importance of Islam, some modern-day Fulani traditions recount the pre-Islamic origin of their people. These traditions state that cattle, as well as the first Fulani family, emerged from a river. They began migrating across Africa and gave birth to children who founded the various Fulani groups.

Folktales (taali) are popular among all Fulani. Children are told bedtime stories that usually have a moral. Among the nomadic Fulani, there are many stories pertaining to their cattle and migrations. All Fulani tell animal tales, recounting the adventures of squirrels, snakes, hyenas, and rabbits, some of which are extremely clever.


As Muslims, the Fulani observe the standard Islamic religious practices. They pray five times a day, learn to recite the holy scriptures (Qur'an, or Koran ) by heart, and give alms to the needy. For one month each year (Ramadan) they fast in the daytime. And at least once in their lifetime, they make a pilgrimage (hajj) to the Islamic holy land in Mecca. The most important duty is to declare one's true faith in Islam and believe that Muhammad was a prophet sent by Allah (God).


All Fulani participate in Islamic holidays (Id). The most important are the feast after the fasting period (Ramadan) and the feast celebrating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. On these days, people pray in thanksgiving to Allah, visit their relatives, prepare special meals, and exchange gifts such as gowns or cloth.


Shortly after a child is born, a naming ceremony is held, following Islamic law and practice. Around the age of seven, boys are circumcised, followed by a small ceremony or gathering in their household. Shortly after this time, they begin performing herding or farming activities, sometimes on their own. At this age, girls help their mothers.

Girls are usually betrothed in marriage during their early to mid-teens. Boys remain sukaa'be (handsome young men) until around the age of twenty. At that time, they start a herd or obtain a farm, and marry. There are ceremonies to prepare the bride and groom for marriage. Afterward, their families sign a marriage contract under Islam. By middle age, a man may be known as a ndottijo (elder, old man) who has acquired wisdom over the years.


All Fulani have an elaborate code for interacting among themselves and with other people. The code, known as Pulaaku, decrees semteende (modesty), munyal (patience), and hakkiilo (common sense). All of these virtues must be practiced in public, among one's in-laws, and with one's spouse. Islam, which also requires modesty and reserve, has tended to reinforce this code.


Among the nomadic Fulani, life can be extremely harsh. They often live in small, temporary camps. These can be quickly dismantled as they move in search of pasture and water for their herds. Because of the settlements' distance from towns, modern health care is not readily available.

Fulani have also settled in towns and cities. In the cities they usually reside in large family houses or compounds.


Among the Fulani, the family includes one's immediate kin and extended family, all of whom are all treated as close kin. In rural areas, these groups tend to live close together and join in work efforts. In the towns and cities, they tend to be more widely dispersed. Each kin group (lenyol) normally recognizes a common male ancestor who lived several generations ago and founded the family.

Male family members usually choose spouses for their children. Matches are generally made between relatives (particularly cousins) and social equals. This practice helps keep wealth (cattle and land) in the family. Polygyny (multiple wives) is not uncommon in Fulani society. A man's wives all help with domestic work and can bear him many children.


Dress codes and styles vary greatly. In general, however, married men and women follow the Islamic dress code, which prescribes modesty. The men wear large gowns, trousers, and caps. Women wear wraps and blouses. Married Muslim women wear veils when they leave their household.

Nomadic Fulani also wear Islamic dress, but it is not as elaborate. The women do not wear veils. Younger men and women adorn themselves with jewelry and headdresses, and they braid their hair.

12 • FOOD

The Fulani diet usually includes milk products such as yogurt, milk, and butter. Each morning they drink milk or gruel (gari) made with sorghum. Their main meals consist of a heavy porridge (nyiiri) made of flour from such grains as millet, sorghum, or corn. They eat it with soup (takai, haako) made from tomatoes, onions, spices, peppers, and other vegetables.


All Fulani adults and older children help educate the younger children through scoldings, sayings and proverbs, and stories. Children also learn through imitation. In many communities, children from about the age of six attend Islamic (Koranic) school. Here they study, recite the scriptures, and learn about the practices, teachings, and morals of Islam. Nowadays, Fulani children in towns and cities attend primary and secondary schools. Some eventually enroll in universities.

[inset phto 1 from guinea book. Students in Guinea begin to attend school at around age six. Credit note: Consulate, Republic of Guinea]

It is more difficult for the children of nomadic families to attend school because they are often on the move.


Among the Fulani, music and art are part of daily life. Work music is sung and played on drums and flutes. Court music (drumming, horns, flutes) and praise-singing are popular in towns, especially during festivals. Praisesingers tell about a community's history and its leaders and other prominent individuals. Religious singers may cite Islamic scriptures.

Most commonly, decorative art occurs in the form of architecture, or in the form of personal adornments such as jewelry, hats, and clothing.


All Fulani communities have a strict division of labor according to age and sex. Men tend the cattle, work in the fields, or have formal employment in the city. Many men are either full-or part-time Islamic scholars or teachers. In the settled communities, Fulani men may work in government, education, business, or, to a lesser extent, as traders.

Women are responsible for managing the household (cooking, cleaning) and caring for the children. Even in the towns, most married women are housewives, but a few work as teachers, nurses, or secretaries.


Among the nomadic Fulani, young men participate in a kind of sport known as sharro. This is a test of bravery in which young men lash each other to the point of utmost endurance. This practice is most common as men enter manhood. However, some continue it until they become elders.

Among the settled Fulani, there is a variety of traditional local sports and games, including wrestling and boxing. Western sports such as soccer and track and field are now found in communities and schools.


Fulani children participate in various kinds of dances. Some are performed for their closest friends and kin, and some in the marketplace. Among the settled people, musicians and praise-singers perform at festivities such as weddings, naming ceremonies, and Islamic holidays. Today, most Fulani own radios and enjoy Western music. Among the settled Fulani, one commonly finds stereos, televisions, and VCRs.


In their spare time, Fulani women make handicrafts including engraved gourds, weavings, knitting, and baskets. Fulani men are less involved in the production of crafts such as pottery, iron-working, and dyeing than some neighboring peoples. They believe these activities may violate their code of conduct ( Pulaaku ) and bring shame upon them.


The pastoral Fulani are currently facing many problems. Drought often reduces their water supply and pasture, and disease may also strike the herds. Increasingly, there is less land available for herding, and conflicts with settled people have increased. Present-day governments are also curtailing the Fulanis' movements or trying to force them to settle down.


Hopen, C. E. Pastoral Fulbe Family in Gwandu . London: Oxford University Press, 1958.

Reisman, Paul. Freedom in Fulani Social Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

Stenning, Derrick. Savanna Nomads . London: Oxford University Press, 1959.


World Travel Guide. Guinea. [Online] Available http:/www.wtgonline.com/country/gn/gen.html , 1998.

User Contributions:

I think you should add marriage in this website you could also add the Kola Nut
Kola Nut:
After a copious meal, especially during holidays and ceremonies, a Kola nut is used to complete the meal. The Kola nut is broken into small pieces and shared between family and friends. The Kola nut has a very special meaning in West African Cultures. It is used to seal agreements and contracts. For example it is widely distributed at weddings, naming ceremonies, and conflict mediation. The Kola nut symbolizes understanding, friendship and unity. Kola is used to symbolizes long life in a marriage. It is wishing the couple a long life together. It is broken and passed around to all the well-wishers present for the ceremony. Everyone takes a small bite.
P.S. Please don't copy the text.
this page as serve as a source of joy and happiness to me and my group members in Nigeria. kudos to you for this job.

................................Atunwa israel
this really helped me on a report i was doing. i was looking al over the internet for one single fact that no one had and you had it and i completed my project. thank you soooo much!
Hi everyone...first of all, I am a large fan of the 'Roots' saga...I'm 16 years old and I am starting research on different West African tribes so I can begin a 'realistic fictional' story of an African girl brought to America. I'd like to know if anyone has information about the Fulani tribe and other West African tribes during the 'slavery era'...help me please! Email me at Ary112@aol.com or prettyinthisbrownskin@yahoo.com

this is the best website in the whole internet, it tells you all what you need!!!!!
Ms Alexander
I would like to know more about the traditional Fulani their dress if any and tatoos also their fancy decorated braided hair styles and not so much the mordern Fulani.
Hi. I just want to say that this website was very helpful for my project and I thank you very much! =)
please i need a list of fulani names for boys especially twins. I am fulani though i cant speak it but then i want to maintain the tradition and values. Thanks
Yusuf! If you check in on this page, send me an e-mail, I would be happy to ask my fulani-husband for some names, and maybe if they have any traditions on naming twins.

I`m learning more and more about his people, and this page is one of the most informative I have read so far. BUT: I do want to add that in his family, their friends his "community", only the older, stronger and most wise women tend (..? ) to cover up their hair outside the house. And mostly in white. And the tradition of choosing your childrens spouses is fading more and more. For the last just about 10years, they can choose their own love, but both families have to agree on it, before they can start "dating", or just jump straight to getting married.

But, then again, this is in -his- community, I`m not saying it stands for all fulani :)
We Fula are proud people who would rather die than be slaves. There are many Bantu/Euro hybrid Arican-Americans falsely claiming to be Fula from a DNA test. I don’t need a dna test because I have living ancestors who have passed down the traditions. We also can drink milk with no problems unlike most AA who are very lactose intolerant.
this was very helpful to me i would love to leaarn more about fula people.this was the only website that i could find anybody know anymore sites
this is indeed a great work, but Fulani people are still homeless, they need to be settled.
i think they are cool wonder what they do every day
@Abdul, my boyfriend is very much Fulani. Born and raised in Guinea, speaks Pullar, etc. and he farts just as much as African Americans after eating Cheese and or drinking milk. So you do not know what you are talking about. Secondly they need to mention that Fulani mothers can be real evil women when it comes to their child wanting to marry outside of Fulani. His mother does not acknowledge me. But she is uneducated so that can explain some of that. haha But I am glad that he is not letting her control his love life. We have been together for two years and the Guinean community (including his siblings) in my area in the U.S. knows and accepts me. Well most of them. The only ones that hate me are middle-aged women who want to keep the blood pure..i guess..but no one is truly pure. I know she will not attend our wedding or even love our future children, but as long as her son loves me, that is all that matters. I am African American by the way.
I am researching for my family tree. I really enjoyed this website on the Fulani Culture. I recently saw a movie called, Prince among Slaves. It is a true movie that was based on a Royal Prince that was kidnapped from Africa. He was from the area of Fulani Jallon. No one believed he was a Prince. But he was sold into slavery in the United States in Mississippi. He became a free man when he was over the age of fifty, (this was before 1865) he had a wife and children. Some of his children he had to leave in slavery because he was not able to raise enough money to free them. His decsendants still live in Mississippi. I saw the documentary on PBS, and I also have the book. I share this with my grandchildren so that they will understand the importance of knowing where you come from and who you are. No matter,what the issue, you can still achieve greatness, in whatever circumstance you find yourself in. Because this Royal Prince did, under the harshest of circumstances.
this is a great article and you've cover a lot of ground...fula also drink this milk its called sowe and the milks looks like its gone off and it has lumps in it. take time to get used to it but I love it. I am fula with some hausa and and my mum is mandingo. I proud to come from great african tribes.

keep up the good work!
@ Lisa. The tendency for you to refer to your mother-in-law as evil is one of the major reasons Fulani women are reluctant allow their children to marry from another tribe. A typical Fulani girl will not do that no matter what her mother-in-law did against her marriage.
This website helped me a lot in my one page report but does anyone know where I can find about masks in the Fulani tribe and what they were used for. All in All love this website!
this website is great i learned quiet am lot from it , how ever i am interested in learning the language itself and i researched so many websites with no luck i am from London if anyone knows any website or any schools where they teach fulani i'd appreciate if you could let me know.
I'm teaching a number of adults (all women so far - no schooling in any language) who speak Fulani. Does anyone know where I could get anything written in their language - if it exists yet?
Many thanks, Laura Webber, ESL Teacher: College of Mt St Vincent:Institute of Immigrant Concerns
please contact me for any information on Fulani people
I might be of help on some fulani traditions and culture.
I am Fulani I live in sudan I fell happy when I got our music ,language,tradition and history of Fulani appear in internet so I would like to participate with you and to your member in sudan and I don't know how to express to you about my emotion.please provide me with Fulani famous football player in Africa.and fulani president in africa and famous educated men in Africa .

thanks alot.
Alhamdu lillah,this is very helpful and interesting for a person to know his origin and culture.but i think it might be more interesting if you add their complexion and famous people from their origin.eg (usman dan foodio.etc)
I want to know the Original story of the Fulani, the main history of fulani and their traditions
this information was very helpful. In addition, i am doing a paper of the Fulani tribe from Cameroon. I would like to speak to him or her. Thanks.
Angelo Kumah
What are the sources of Islamic history in West Africa?
I am a final year medical student from the Gambia, i was extremely please to find this site, view comments of my fellow fulani across Africa. Despite the geographical difference we are one and the same and i believe the Fulani is the most unique tribe in Africa, its the most widely spoken language across Africa. Although i dont know much about history but i dont think there is any indigenous African Tribe/language that is found/spoken in more than 10 African countries countries apart from the FULANI!!! It is my thinking that the fulani language is the most appropriate single language to be adopted as an official language for AU... Anyway, am thankful to the people behind this initiative... Jarama
hi sharon am from cameroon proudly fulani.ill be glad to help ya with knowledge i have.here's my email: naimaiya@gmail.com :-) cya
am from sudan am happy with my tribe information thanks alot for provide us with fulani history and more thanks
Mohammed Wailare
I enjoyed every bit of this site and I am glad to find it. I am Fulani from Nigeria and in search of more knowledge about my people. if any body have something to share please don't hesitate to write me through: maharazu@yahoo.com or wailare1@yahoo.com En suito jam
Hello everyone, I am fulani and am from senegal. I just wanted to say that I am very happy that so many people are trying to know more about fulani cultures, and thanks to the one who wrote this articles, it's very interesting even to a fula.
Queen Samaya
I am proud to be on this site. I am a proud Fulani, Balanta, and Yoruba decedent from America. I would love to know more about my people, especially the language. I am working on a major research about the Fulani people, and the ones that came to America from slavery. One of my Fulani ancestors came to South Carolina and Louisiana during slavery. Please feel free to contact me on my email at fulashanti@yahoo.com. Peace.
I'm from nigeria, adamawa state, i'm praud to a fulani, i'm interrested with this website
I am a Fulakunda from my paternal great-grandmother ,who was from Guinea-Bissau.I welcome all, especially my Fulani sisters,and Brothers.I am looking for a Fulani wife as well.Contact me.
Mohamed AHMED
am fulani as i told you in the comment above(24) I live in sudan with my family when i got the history of my tribe i felt so happy and now am thinking to be lucky to get a wife from fulani tribe in west africa ,i pray to GOD to accept my pray and my Dwaa to married from any fulani girl in west africa.this my wish please pray with me to get,if there pleas contact me,thanks
Thank you for this wonderfull information that help me alots.
Excellent resource. Thank you. I am a Celtic male married to a Senegalese Fulani woman and we are looking for names for our first child, we are looking for a name that can be similar in English and Fulani. Anyone got any good links?
To Gary
You can give your child the name(Bari) , it makes no difference the child is a boy or a girl -It sounds good for child to be called (Bari Gari) -Bari is a Fulani clan-
Very interesting and educative site. Keep it up! I am a PhD candidate working on the folktales of the fulbe/Fulani of Adamawa state, Nigeria. I would be very grateful if I could get any useful information/material on the topic, especially the stories themselves. I believe that those folktales/stories are dying and if not properly documented they will soon cease to exist. A project like the one I am undertaking is one way of making them survive and the culture of the fulbe or Fulani survive.
thanks this helped my project very much I know I will definetley have an a
It nice and important to have this information here.
Helpful scientific site, will tell my friend and relative to visit this page to know more
Am really lucky to belong to the most noble tribe in the world
gabby hernandez
this helped so much on a mask that i had to make. i look forward to seeing what else is being said about other cultures. you never know what you can learn
Jam na? This is a very helpful and an interesting site.I believe that our language Fulfulde, is a unique tribe and the most widely spoken African language that is found in more than 50 African countries and around the world.
I am a Fulani (Barry) to be precise and a resident in Ghana. I would like to take this opportunity to plead with my fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters around the globe to help preserve our dialect, because languages are dying everyday. Secondly, we should try to speak the fulfulde to our children everyday. Thirdly, we should also help our brothers and sisters to get some form of education.
This is such a great site it helped me so much with my Fulani project. I am so thankful and will remember to use this for more projects!
Thanks again,
Yahya Kaba
Hello everyone.Am guinean residing in Zambia.I have to say fulani's are interesting people but they dont get along very much with my tribe mandingo.my Grandmother on my mothers side is Fulani tho.Why cant they get along
Please I want.to know what each piece of the Fulani women's attire represents. Thanks
I'm trying to find out why they move places but I'm in a real hurry so maybe you could use something that could help? But thanks, this helped me alot.
First, thank you for such a detailed informational website that will become very useful for a class I am taking: Families: A Global Perspective. I have an assignment I am doing that and need to compare American cultures to the Fulani cultures. Although, the book for my class, A World of Babies, Imagined Childcare Guides for Seven Societies (2001) by Judy DeLoache & Alma Gottlieb is very thorough, you have added much more needed information that the book does not have. If possible, more on child-rearing among the Fulani's would be an added plus.

Again, thank you very much!
@Abdul We part Fulani AA may be a Euro hybrid mix, but our African dna has been tested and IS distinctively Fulani whether the Fulani in Africa want to recognize us or not!! Our dna is North African, and East african and found in geographical areas such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin/Togo! We show high oercentage if Western semitic African dna! We are here and want to learn about the other half of our culture! We don't necessarily want to marry into full blood Fulani tribe so no need to shun us! Some of us had the misfortune if having our ancestors taken as slaves, some died in revolt against that! You should not be so quick to judge AA with Fulani dna!! Shame on you! We are your people too!! Without EVERY Fulani's help (full blooded or half breed) the Fulani culture will die out!
Point of clarification: enslaved people did not come solely from coastal areas, but hinterlands were also effected. Historian Peter Wood tells us that in the 18th century, South Carolina planters (and very likely those of other regions as well) were actively seeking enslaved Fulani because of their knowledge of and skill in animal husbandry. That’s in Black Majority (1974) if anybody wants to look. So, Fulani were here, however there was much mixing of peoples in the US diaspora over time.
Raphael Wasilwa
this website was helpful am a college student currently researching on cultural anthropology, thanks a lot i can now complete my project
Fulani's are very brilliant when it comes to learning so I will like to urge all my brothers and sisters to send their wards to school for better future.Thank you
Ani Ifeanyi
Am from Ibo tribe in Nigeria, I really love Fulani people, some people think I am Fulani sometimes. I honestly wish to marry a Fulani but religion is a barrier. I wish I can find a Christian Fulani girl.
Abdullahi Halilu
This article is more elaborated but the Fulani style of kingdom was excluded there is need for it to be part of the article Thank you
Nobody mentioned Gerewol in this comment section!! Nobody!!! I'm pained, being very proud that i am!!
Sani Alhaji Musa
Fulanis are the most inteligent people in Nigerian history because they provide the most prominent and the most progressive leadership in the Nigerian context in particular and west Africa in general. People like Usman Dan Fodio, The Sardauna of Sokoto are very important in shaping the history of modern day NIGERIA. Mi yetti Allah, Mi yetti annabijo.
Good work, can we get more information about real fulani native names and their meanings for our children, so that we don't lose our heritage.
I'm a Fulani from Nigeria.
This website tells me almost everything i need for my project about fulani
Infact,to be sincere I'm proud of this website,this website help me to know so many things about my tribe, I'm purely fulani from Nigeria, but unfortunately I can't speak the language, but I maintain the pulaaku very well,and fortunately I married a fulani lady,and she can speak fulani 100%, I'm very glad being this tribe because it's a gift. Alamdullilah.

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