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Brides in Sudan Traded For Cattle

And You Thought Dating Was Rough!

With each standing just about 5'11" tall, I'm not sure how both my mom and sister would feel if, thanks to their towering stature, they'd be swapped as brides in exchange for cattle. The Sudanese Mundari tribe values tall women. The reason: they say tall girls will bear daughters that grow quickly, who in turn can then be married off for even more cattle.

"A tall girl can command 60 to 100 cattle from a suitor," tribal chief John Modi Jubek told the LA Times. "A short girl may get 20 head, and, sometimes, short girls overstay their welcome in the father's home and end up fetching only five cattle. By then, a tall girl has already borne five children." Bartering brides is a tradition that's been going on for centuries, and sadly, women have no say in the matter.

In fact, once a girl turns 12, suitors can then start their wooing, pitching offers to fathers with promises of what livestock they can offer. No cattle equals no marriage, and therefore some potential grooms even borrow cattle from others so that they can get hitched. And if a man messes around with an unwed daughter and gets her pregnant, he's killed. While it's a system that is ingrained in their culture, and although dating in the States is tough, it all makes me appreciate selecting my mate based on attraction and choice — height be damned.

Join The Conversation
GummiBears GummiBears 7 years
I wondered what is considered tall in their culture?
dinghy dinghy 7 years
Traded off...I don't know. I suppose that if they have enough cattle to trade some off, it means they're rich enough to start a family and not have them starve. It doesn't make for romantic marriages, but I suppose it's a sensible way to live under these circumstances. (Now, if those circumstances would change...) As for height, I guess it may be correlated to health...?
xxstardust xxstardust 7 years
I giggled at the end - "it all makes me appreciate selecting my mate based on attraction and choice — height be damned", only because height DOES have a large effect on reproductive success cross-culturally, even in the US. The taller a man is (as height is strongly tied to social dominance in men), the more likely he is to have more partners. For women, it's a quadratic effect - very short and very tall women are at a reproductive disadvantage, while women of average height have the most partners and more desirable partners, as well as having the luxury of being able to be more selective in their partners. If anyone is interested, results of a study examining this effect (as well as its relationship to levels of jealousy) are published by Abraham P. Buunk et al. in the Journal Evolution and Human Behavior, Issue 29 from 2008.
bryseana bryseana 7 years
mix tape, I hope you're being sarcastic. There's nothing cool about a 12 year old girl being swapped for cattle just because she's tall. The girls themselves are treated like livestock. What kind of existence is that?
mix-tape mix-tape 7 years
Cattle are quite useful in most cultures. They provide meat and milk for a family while only requiring little input. You are rich if you have livestock! I think this is pretty cool, actually.
marcied23 marcied23 7 years
we'll i'm 6 feet tall and i don't appreciate this custom either. cattle? really?
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
LOL. Damn, I'm glad I'm not Sudanese, as I'm petite.
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