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How to Hunt a Lion

(As told by Moses, a Maasai tribesman.)

Inside a typical mud-and-timber-built Maasai hut in Kenya.
Inside a typical mud-and-timber-built Maasai hut in Kenya.

After two years of invitations, I finally made it to Africa to visit my friend Moses, a Maasai elder, at his village in Kenya.

That first night, while sitting around a fire, he offered to tell me about hunting lions. I thought this to be an honor, as the Maasai consider themselves to be great storytellers but do not often share such private tales with visitors.

A Maasai boy is expected to hunt a lion with shield and spear before he is considered to be a man. While he does not have to actually kill the lion, he must participate in the hunt. Moses was 13 when he faced this trial that is an integral part of Maasai culture.

Moses the storyteller

Moses put on a grave face and began to tell me that they hunt by surrounding the lion in a wide circle, then slowly advance until the lion is so threatened that it will attack one warrior, who throws himself on the ground, covers up with this shield, and hopes his fellow hunters kill the lion with their spears before it kills him.

At this point Moses pulled up his bright red shuka (robe) and showed me a long jagged scar on his calf, saying he got it on his first lion hunt.

I was astounded and could only think to say, “A lion did that to you?”

He leaned forward as if to impart a great secret and said, “No, I was so scared, I speared myself in the leg and the lion got away!"

With that, he threw his head back, giggling uncontrollably, and I was introduced to Maasai humor.

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Inside a typical mud-and-timber-built Maasai hut in Kenya.
Inside a typical mud-and-timber-built Maasai hut in Kenya.

After two years of invitations, I finally made it to Africa to visit my friend Moses, a Maasai elder, at his village in Kenya.

That first night, while sitting around a fire, he offered to tell me about hunting lions. I thought this to be an honor, as the Maasai consider themselves to be great storytellers but do not often share such private tales with visitors.

A Maasai boy is expected to hunt a lion with shield and spear before he is considered to be a man. While he does not have to actually kill the lion, he must participate in the hunt. Moses was 13 when he faced this trial that is an integral part of Maasai culture.

Moses the storyteller

Moses put on a grave face and began to tell me that they hunt by surrounding the lion in a wide circle, then slowly advance until the lion is so threatened that it will attack one warrior, who throws himself on the ground, covers up with this shield, and hopes his fellow hunters kill the lion with their spears before it kills him.

At this point Moses pulled up his bright red shuka (robe) and showed me a long jagged scar on his calf, saying he got it on his first lion hunt.

I was astounded and could only think to say, “A lion did that to you?”

He leaned forward as if to impart a great secret and said, “No, I was so scared, I speared myself in the leg and the lion got away!"

With that, he threw his head back, giggling uncontrollably, and I was introduced to Maasai humor.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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