LOCATION: Hausaland in West Africa (northwestern Nigeria and in adjoining southern Niger)

POPULATION: More than 20 million

LANGUAGE: Hausa; Arabic; French or English

RELIGION: Islam; native cults


The Hausa, numbering more than 20 million, are the largest ethnic group in west Africa. They are widely distributed geographically and have intermingled with many different peoples.

Islam arrived in the area by the fourteenth century. By the fifteenth century, there were a number of independent Hausa city-states. They competed with each other for control of trade across the Sahara Desert, slaves, and natural resources. In the nineteenth century, the region was unified by a jihad (Islamic holy war) and became known as Hausaland. The British arrived and colonized the area in about 1900. Even during colonial times, the city-states and their leaders maintained some autonomy. Many Hausa traditions were preserved until late in the twentieth century.


The Hausa people are concentrated mainly in northwestern Nigeria and in adjoining southern Niger. This area is mostly semiarid grassland or savanna, dotted with cities surrounded by farming communities. The cities of this region—Kano, Sokoto, Zari, and Katsina, for example—are among the greatest commercial centers of sub-Saharan Africa (Africa south of the Sahara Desert). Hausa people are also found living in other countries of west Africa like Cameroon, Togo, Chad, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Ghana.


Hausa is the most widely spoken language in west Africa. It is spoken by an estimated 22 million people. Another 17 million people speak Hausa as a second language. Hausa is written in Arabic characters, and about one-fourth of Hausa words come from Arabic. Many Hausa can read and write Arabic. Many can also speak either French or English.


According to tradition, Bayajidda, the mythical ancestor of the Hausa, migrated from Baghdad in the ninth or tenth century AD . After stopping at the kingdom of Bornu, he fled west and helped the king of Daura slay a dangerous snake. As a reward, he was given the Queen of Daura in marriage. Bayajidda's son, Bawo, founded the city of Biram. He had six sons who became the rulers of other Hausa city-states. Collectively, these are known as the Hausa bakwai (Hausa seven).

Hausa folklore includes tatsunya— stories that usually have a moral. They involve animals, young men and maidens, and heroes and villains. Many include proverbs and riddles.


Most Hausa are devout Muslims who believe in Allah and in Muhammad as his prophet. They pray five times each day, read the Koran (holy scriptures), fast during the month of Ramadan, give alms to the poor, and aspire to make the pilgrimage (hajj) to the Muslim holy land in Mecca. Islam affects nearly all aspects of Hausa behavior, including dress, art, housing, rites of passage, and laws. In the rural areas, there are communities of peoples who do not follow Islam. These people are called Maguzawa. They worship nature spirits known as bori or iskoki.


The Hausa observe the holy days of the Islamic calendar. Eid (Muslim feast days) celebrate the end of Ramadan (month of fasting), follow a hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), and celebrate the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. On Eid al-Adha, Muslims sacrifice an animal to reenact the time Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son to God. Families also slaughter an animal in their own homes. This may be a male sheep or cow. People then celebrate with their relatives and friends and give each other gifts.


About a week after a child is born, it is given a name during an Islamic naming ceremony. Boys are usually circumcised at around the age of seven, but there is no special rite associated with this.

In their mid-to late teens, young men and women may become engaged. The marriage ceremony may take as long as several days. Celebrations begin among the bride and her family and friends as she is prepared for marriage. Male representatives of the bride's and the groom's families sign the marriage contract according to Islamic law, usually at the mosque. Shortly thereafter, the couple is brought together.

Following a death, Islamic burial principles are always followed. The deceased is washed, wrapped in a shroud, and buried facing eastward—toward the holy land of Mecca. Prayers are recited, and family members receive condolences. Wives mourn their deceased husbands for about three months.


Hausa tend to be quiet and reserved. When they interact with outsiders, they generally do not show emotion. There are also some customs that govern interaction with one's relatives. For example, it is considered a sign of respect not to say the name of one's spouse or parents. By contrast, relaxed, playful relations are the norm with certain relatives, such as younger siblings, grandparents, and cousins.

From an early age, children develop friendships with their neighbors that may last a lifetime. In some towns, young people may form associations whose members socialize together until they marry.


In rural villages, Hausa usually live in large households (gidaje) that include a man, his wives, his sons, and their wives and children. In large cities, such as Kano or Katsina, Hausa live either in the old sections of town or in newer quarters built for civil servants. Hausa housing ranges from traditional family compounds in rural areas to modern, single-family houses in new sections of cities.


Relatives cooperate in activities such as farming and trade in rural areas, and business activities in urban areas. Relatives hope to live near each other to socialize and support each other. Families arrange marriages for their young people. Marriages between relatives, such as cousins, are preferred. Under Islamic law, a man may marry up to four wives.

Following Islamic custom, most married Hausa women live in seclusion. They stay in the home and only go out for ceremonies or to seek medical treatment. When they do leave their homes, women wear veils and are often escorted by their children.


Hausa men are recognizable by their elaborate dress. Many wear large, flowing gowns (gare, babban gida) with elaborate embroidery around the neck. They also wear colorful embroidered caps (huluna). Hausa women wear a wrap-around robe made of colorful cloth with a matching blouse, head tie, and shawl.

12 • FOOD

Staple foods include grains (sorghum, millet, or rice) and maize, which are ground into flour for a variety of foods. Breakfast often consists of porridge. Sometimes it includes cakes made of fried beans (kosai) or wheat flour (funkaso). Lunch and dinner usually include a heavy porridge (tuwo). It is served with a soup or stew (miya). Most soups are made with ground or chopped tomatoes, onions, and peppers. To this are added spices and other vegetables such as spinach, pumpkin, and okra. Small amounts of meat are eaten. Beans, peanuts, and milk also add protein to Hausa diets.


From about the age of six, Hausa children attend Koranic schools (schools where teaching is based on the Islamic holy scripture, the Koran). They learn to recite the scriptures and learn about the practices, teachings, and morals of Islam. By the time they reach adulthood, many achieve high levels of Islamic scholarship.

Since Nigeria received its independence in 1960, the government has built many schools and universities. A majority of Hausa children, especially in urban areas, are now able to attend school, at least at the primary level.


Music and art play are important in everyday life. From a young age, Hausa children participate in dances, which are held in meeting places such as the market. Work songs often accompany activities in the rural areas and in the markets. Praise-singers sing about community histories, leaders, and other prominent individuals. Storytelling, local dramas, and musical performances are also common forms of traditional entertainment.


Hausa society has a strong division of labor according to age and sex. The main activity in the towns is trade; in rural areas, it is agriculture. Many Hausa men have more than one occupation. In the towns and cities, they may have formal jobs, such as teaching or government work, and engage in trade on the side. In rural areas, they farm and also engage in trade or crafts. Some Hausa are full-time traders with shops or market stalls. Many Hausa are full-time Islamic scholars.

Hausa women earn money by processing, cooking, and selling food. They also sell cloth scraps, pots, medicines, vegetable oils, and other small items. Since women are generally secluded according to Islamic law, their children or servants go to other houses or the market on their behalf.


Both wrestling (koko) and boxing (dumb) are popular traditional sports among the Hausa. Matches take place in arenas or markets, often on religious holidays. Music, particularly drumming, accompanies the competition. Opponents wrestle until one is thrown to the ground. Boxers fight until one is either brought to his knees or falls flat on the ground.

Soccer is the most popular modern competitive sport, and is considered the national sport of Nigeria.


Musicians perform at weddings, naming ceremonies, and parties, as well as during Islamic holidays. Today, Western forms of entertainment are popular. Hausa listen to Western music, including rap and reggae, and view American and British television programs. Many have stereos, televisions, and VCRs in their homes.


Hausa are well known for their craftsmanship. There are leather tanners and leather-workers, weavers, carvers and sculptors, ironworkers and blacksmiths, silver workers, potters, dyers, tailors, and embroiderers. Their wares are sold in markets throughout west Africa.


Poverty is widespread among the Hausa. Poverty results in poor nutrition and diet, illness and inadequate health care, and lack of educational opportunities. Most of the region where the Hausa live is prone to drought. Hausa people suffer during harsh weather. Some Hausa have been unable to earn a living in rural areas, and have moved to the cities in search of work.


Coles, Catherine, and Beverly Mack. Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century . Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.

Koslow, Philip. Hausaland: The Fortress Kingdoms. Kingdoms of Africa. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1995.

Smith, Mary. Baba of Karo: A Woman of the Muslim Hausa. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981.


World Travel Guide. Nigeria. [Online] Available , 1998.

Also read article about Hausa from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Hassan Garba
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Mar 27, 2009 @ 3:15 pm
I am a Hausa.It is pronounced as Haw-sah. The heavy porridge you named is "Fura" and NOT "tuwo". The flowing gowns is called "babban riga" not "babban gida". The schools are called"Qur-anik schools" better still "makarantar islamiyya" and not Koranic. And many more
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Jan 15, 2011 @ 11:11 am
this page has really help me well done thank you and i hope you can help me another time
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Jan 21, 2011 @ 9:09 am
I believe the social problems mention above is not only assorciated with the hausas only but a general african issue. Infact hausas have their vocational skills like blacksmithing, tailoring, carpentary, shoe making, cloth dyeing, animal rearing and ofcourse trading, if not for the colonisation or rather westernization, our social problems were not as huge as this. We had our own style of education which is the Qur'anic education and that constitute religious, moral, medical, engineering knowledge and everything about life.
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Feb 19, 2011 @ 7:19 pm
Could any9one please tell me how Hausa people conduct marriages?
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Nov 15, 2011 @ 11:11 am
Why has nobody mentioned that hausa love selling suya(roasted beef/chicken,pepper,onions and probably some vegetables)?
I patronize them a lot!
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Dec 19, 2011 @ 8:08 am
comfort ekpes
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Jan 30, 2012 @ 4:04 am
U guys are wonderful i have gained so much. thanks i want to know if male childern are still ciecumcised at age 7.
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Apr 10, 2012 @ 4:04 am
i wan't to know how could i get embrodidered colourful cap (huluna, how much the price, thanks for the attention
emediong eyo
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Oct 26, 2012 @ 11:11 am
please, i am given an assignment in school to write about hausa burial ceremony, please is just the muslim type of burial ceremony that the hausas peform? Or do they have any other religion or traditional burial rights apart from that? Please this will help me alot in my reseach. Thank you.
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Nov 12, 2012 @ 11:11 am
@emediong eyo: the burial ceremony is from islamically method. Thank you
kolawole ezekiel
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Jan 13, 2013 @ 11:11 am
How did the hausas solved their female gender problem
hassan shuaibu
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Nov 7, 2013 @ 4:16 pm
hi, taifiq, the caps are in dif varieties depending on d type &quality. Price is from 1000, 1500

, 2000-6000 naira. Regards
Miftahu Muhammad
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Dec 22, 2013 @ 2:02 am
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Dec 29, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
Hi is nose piercing allowed in hausa culture on girls and also is it a mustfor pubic hair to be removed from man and woman in hausa culture. Thanks
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Jan 2, 2014 @ 6:18 pm
wrestling is kokowa and not (koko), and boxing is called dambe and not (dumb)
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Mar 7, 2014 @ 11:23 pm
A well defined work with nice contributions. Weldone
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Apr 24, 2014 @ 4:04 am
This information is very helpful. My fiancée is Hausa. I had a very difficult time connecting to him, especially after he returned from seeing his family! This article has shed so much light on our situation and will help me to understand him more. He does not show his emotions and is extremely reserved, but now I know it's not because he's not interested in me. Now that I am a bit more informed the situation will be a bit difficult for me, but I can't say he hasn't made an effort. I wonder if we will work because of the cultural differences, I'm black American and I have been living in Niamey for almost two years to date. I wish I had this information before, I would have been able to understand the Hausa people better! Knowledge is wonderful, without it you are lost and will only judge people according to what you know. Thank you so much!
Muhammad Amiru
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May 8, 2014 @ 4:04 am
pls i want to know the characteristics of hausa tribe in terms of:- 1. pattern of marriage 2. Inheritance 3. Extended family 4. Rearing of children.
Caleb Muli
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Jan 16, 2015 @ 9:21 pm
Fascinating! This is awesome! I would like to know more about these community. Do you have info about Yoruba?
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Jan 18, 2015 @ 8:20 pm
Pls, help with this my research question and will i be very glad if you help me out.

The hausa did not have labiodenta because they have proble. Explain this problem
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Feb 9, 2015 @ 10:22 pm
I hear the hausa language is very similar to a language we speak here in Zambia called ichibemba
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Feb 12, 2015 @ 7:07 am
@ Chibesa

I read a bit of Bemba laguage, I figure out that "Mutunci" = dignity has the same meaning as in Hausa.
Ishaque Mayere
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Feb 22, 2015 @ 5:17 pm
Very generous and hospitality...note: almost 50% of Hausa people speak fulani's lang.
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Jun 30, 2015 @ 1:01 am
Well,it's quite educating as i found so many things helpful.I personally wish to have had time,i would have share in details how Hausa marriage,its approach and cultural beauty attached to it as well as critically talk of the negative part of it as is normal to every cultural practices in the world.

Department of Nigerian languages,
Bayaro University,Kano.
Garba Musa Aliyu
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Jul 4, 2015 @ 4:04 am
I am an Hausa man, I would like to point out that it's a grave error to include sculpture as one of the crafts in Hausa land. Sculpture making is against the major tenets of Islam, I wonder where the writer came across this notion? Making sculptures qualifies a Muslim as a heretic, you better check such things before going to press.
Salahuddeen yusuf rabiu
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Aug 5, 2015 @ 10:10 am
I am hausa man and i want add some favourite food of hausa peoples, founded yam (sakwara) is the one of favourite food of hausa people
Tasneem Kabeer
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Aug 13, 2015 @ 5:17 pm
I am a hausa lady, nd I read this topic thorouly nd I found some errors, I read a chapter saying dat poverty is widespread among hausa's dis is absoltely wrong we're well engaged in diffrnt kinds of fascinating nd lucrative businesses, d fact of poverty is nt d fault of hausa's neither Nigerian's nor African it started due to d injustice distribution of world properties, some continent took more than they demand nd left other in excess poverty, nd koko is pap while wrestling is kokawa nd boxing is dambe
Mukhtar Ibrahim Isah Jibiya
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Aug 15, 2015 @ 7:07 am
I am a Hausa boy conducting ETHNOGRAPHIC research on the Hausas, I found above article interesting and encouraging.although not everything about hausa people is included and the once presented should treated with great caution.thank
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Oct 28, 2015 @ 1:13 pm
Thank you so much from this brief explanation i learn something
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Nov 7, 2015 @ 8:08 am
Please I need to know the hausa creation story urgently, if u know it, please tell me the website to find it. Very urgent! please!
Victor Danjuma
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Feb 17, 2016 @ 3:15 pm
flowing gown is babban Riga not babban gida, boxing is dambe not dumb, wrestling is kokowa not koko. Thanks
Tajuddeen SMG
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May 24, 2016 @ 11:11 am
This is very awosome article about my culture, although there are alots of misconception in this article.
Muhammad Kumonian
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Oct 13, 2017 @ 4:16 pm
well, but not perfect, Hausa history is something a bit complicated and tend to be unbelievable, but we need to keep on research and preserve the fair information in hand.
Lami Ali Bila
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Nov 1, 2017 @ 9:21 pm
I commend your effort towards the history of the Hausa people. I am a Hausa lady, born into a Christian home and a Christian. In your essay, you acknowledged Islam and traditional religion as the only religions among the Hausas. I want us to understand that, there are indigenous Hausa Christians. Christianity has been in Hausaland since the 19th century.
Julia Burne
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Nov 11, 2017 @ 12:12 pm
I volunteer for a small charity helping asylum seekers. We have had a problem recently convincing the immigration judge about a family name. Is any one able to tell me - among Hausa Muslims, does the woman take her husband's name when she marries, or does she keep her own family name? I look forward to any information.
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Feb 5, 2018 @ 5:17 pm
With regards to your question (Julia Burne) on whether the woman takes her husband name after marriage. The answer is simple,we don’t . As stated above majority of Hausas are Muslims and therefore most of practices are guided by the Islamic teaching of the Quran and Hadith. A woman retains her father’s name or family name before and after marriage. Hope this helps!
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Jun 16, 2018 @ 5:17 pm
i am a hausa muslim and this article has alot of incorrect info did you guys do research before writing the article or did you guys just pull the info out of the sky or did you guys just ask someone who is not a hausa muslim for infomation.
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Jun 16, 2018 @ 5:17 pm
i am a hausa muslim and this article has alot of incorrect info did you guys do research before writing the article or did you guys just pull the info out of the sky or did you guys just ask someone who is not a hausa muslim for infomation.
you bitches are fucking rude
some one
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Oct 31, 2018 @ 6:18 pm
Hi This artificial is awesome but COOL so keep up the good work
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Jun 22, 2019 @ 3:03 am
Thank you for this write up it has really helped me but i wasn't to know more about the hausa attires, where it originated from, where they are made and the importance to the Hausa's
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Sep 3, 2019 @ 12:12 pm
pls does Hausa have history of their writing system?
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Jun 3, 2020 @ 9:09 am
cool helped alot i will recommed this to alot of people if they are doing a project

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