Our people are known to have been raring animals from time immemorial. In Acoli, what was called wealth was the presence and number of animals one had especially if they were cattle. But all in all, all animals were very important. Ancient Acoli kept cattle, goats sheep and chicken. They did have pigs, ducks or pigeons and turkeys. Although an individual owned animals-- cattle, goats etc, control over them was communal. A person could not wake up one morning and decide to use any of the animals without a small council taking over the issue and permitting him. The eldest man in the home had the final word.

Among these animals the one most used for various purposes was the goat. Goats served many purposes in Acoli traditional life. They were used in marriage---- to pay bride price/ wealth. No marriage in Acoli was successful without goats being paid. When a girl eloped with a boy, the parents would search and when they found her, they would ask for two goats. One for the mother and the other for the father. (female and male respectively). During the actual marriage ceremony goats were again paid. This valuable animal was often offered to important visitors. In traditional Acoli, the most important visitor was the mother-in-law (the wife's mother). The arrival of a mother-in-law was a time when everyone in that home showed maximum discipline. She would come accompanied by a wife or wives of her bother's-in-law (wives of her husbands brothers). If she wasn't making just a casual visit, but was coming for an issue to discuss, she would come with her son/ sons or her husband.


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they can be good friends too.

The animal was offered live to her. Later she would propose its slaughter. Some of the meat was cooked to be eaten from there while some would be smoked. This she would take to her home. Her husband and his brother would be very grateful for the honour given to this woman by their son-in-law's family.Another important visitor in a family was an uncle -- mother's brother. When this uncle visited her sister and her children, there was also happiness. He was also honoured with a goat. He is very well respected in this family. An uncle visit is usually for important matters.
During a marriage, an uncle and an aunt were honoured with a goat each Goats were used at funeral rights. It was believed that a deceased needed blood from the living. This blood was got by killing a goat and its blood allowed to flow onto the grave. This goat was brutally killed. It was clobbered to death. Goats were important and still important in cleansing persons/ families or homes bedeviled by a taboo. When a person pronounces a curse against another, the curse could only be withdrawn by the blood of a goat. People used goat meat for communal work called "awak" During awak, someone would invite many people say up to 20 or 30 people to help him in his garden. The cheapest source of good meat was goat meat.

Animal number two is the sheep. It seems as though people's attitude towards sheep is almost the same throughout the world. Sheep are thought of as humble, obedient etc. In Acoli culture sheep are respected. It is said their blood is cool. This blood is used in place where goat blood becomes ineffective.
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sheep grazing


It is a serious taboo when relatives fall in love and have sexual relations. Elders from the two parties sit, discuss the closeness of the relationship and decide what to do. If the relationship is found to be close and cannot permit marriage, the two would be severely warned and to stop forthwith. In the event of the separation, the two would be asked to make an oath that they would never engage in a love affair between them anymore. The oath would be sealed by the boy swallowing three small raw pieces of sheep liver while the girl would swallow four pieces. The animal was killed, the liver removed and the slices of its live given to the lovers. The rest of the meat was cooked and only people of the boys equal would eat it. That means anyone who is a brother, sister or cousin ate the meat. The Father, mother aunts and uncles did not touch the meat.

When in a family a taboo including hot substances like fire, food or oil is involved, cleansing is done using sheep's blood. Like when a man or woman throws food in anger at their friend or when a hut is set ablaze deliberately of not, when a person kills another the place where the incident took place is cleansed using sheep's blood.

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cleansing would need the blood of a sheep


In Acoli, some children are said to have incarnated into their mother's womb by "jok" that by the gods. They are called 'lotino jok" that is children of the gods. They include twins and two births after the twins. Babies born with legs coming out first and children born with deformities or abnormalities. When these "lotino joggi" are being buried especially the twins, sheep skin is required. Its blood too is needed. In this case a sheep is used in the burial of some Acoli people. People who bear these jok children are not allowed to eat mutton or sit on the skin of a sheep. They will be freed to do so after the twin ceremony is performed.

The next animal of importance was cattle.
These were kept mainly for marriage purposes. They represented the wealth of that family. A family that lacked cattle was a family heading for doom. The sons in the home would remain bachelors. There were no ox-ploughs in those days so cattle did have to do people's work. Bulls were killed for people to eat during funerals of important people like a man who had worked hard to get these wealth, chiefs. Cattle was used during "culu kwor" --- compensating the family of a person that had been killed. When a member of a family kills a person from another family, the chiefs sit down and some compensation would be made. Cattle ranked number one in the compensation. Cows gave the Acoli people milk. But milk was not a serious matter for our ancestors. When a cow was milked, some of the milk was drunk raw, some was left over night to make yogurt. When a baby was orphaned at infancy, then milk became very important to that family.

Apart from cattle Acoli people managed their animals by tethering. A small hut called "okero" was built for them. In some extreme cases where carnivorous were notorious, people kept goats and sheep in their living huts.
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During the dry season they were allowed to roam freely. They would mate, get lost, be stolen etc. In some places in Acoli, people grazed goats the way cattle were grazed. Goats and sheep were not tethered.

Cow were kept in kraals. They were never brought to live together with humans.
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our kraals were similar to this but they are no more