Bizarre Annual ‘Fat Man’ Contest Remains Source of Pride for the Bodi Tribe

Fredrick Ngugi May 31, 2017
Members of the Bodi Tribe in Ethiopia during Ka’el. Photo credit: Aspundir

For many people, it’s mind-boggling to imagine how one can survive only on a mixture of cow’s milk and blood for six months, but for the Bodi tribe in Ethiopia, this practice is a source of honor and pride.

Men from this minority ethnic group, which is predominantly found in southern Ethiopia, compete to become the fattest at an annual ceremony called Ka’el.

Before the ceremony, which is usually held on New Year’s Day, the male contestants spend six months drinking a mixture of fresh blood and milk in a bid to fatten up in the shortest time possible.

Ethiopian Fat Man Contest

Contestants during the popular Fat Man Contest in Ethiopia. Photo credit: Ifeng

During this period, contestants are not allowed to have sex or even leave their huts. Only unmarried men are eligible for the competition and every family is allowed to present a candidate for the challenge. Women and girls are responsible for delivering milk and blood to the contestants every morning in pots and gourds.

During the ceremony, which is attended by both men and women, the contestants are lined up in front of the crowd, while completely naked, to choose the fattest.

Bizarre Fat Man Contest

A participant in the fat man contest drinks a mixture of cow’s milk and blood. Photo credit: The Sun

Although the winner does not get any prize he is considered a hero for the rest of his life. As bizarre as it may appear, this practice remains one of the tribe’s most popular and treasured traditions.

Weird and Risky

Because of the “fat man” contest, many young men from the Bodi tribe now view being fat as beautiful and a source of honor.

Women and girls in this tribe also consider a man with a large waistline attractive and strong, which pushes a lot of unmarried men to want to pile up some pounds.

Bodi tribe contest

A member of the Bodi tribe displaying his extra pounds. Photo credit: Memes

However, health experts and nutritionists are opposed to this practice as it is not only unhealthy, but also very risky. Obviously, it deprives the body of essential nutrients and can lead to many complications associated with excess body weight.

To draw blood from the cow, the Bodi people use a sharp object to pierce a hole in one of the cow’s veins, especially around the neck, and later close it with clay.

Drawing blood from a cow

A member of the Bodi tribe drawing blood from a cow. Photo credit: Information Nigeria

Although they are slowly adopting farming as an alternative source of livelihood by growing sorghum and maize, the Bodis are one of the few tribes in Ethiopia that have refused to drop their traditional practices for the modern way of life.

Last Edited by:Sandra Appiah Updated: May 31, 2017


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