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I leave my house for work and get called over by two village women awaiting their chance to do business with the chief. The first smiles...

Monday, May 16, 2016


Cows returning from a day of grazing in Lesotho.
Many cultures like cows. Americans like beef, leather, cheese, and milk. Hindu cultures consider cows so sacred that they are never used for these things. They are simply allowed to live and do as they please.

Cows or likhomo are directly equated with wealth. A family which owns cows and hires someone to be their molisana or herdboy is considered to be well off regardless of the size or style of their home or wardrobe. Cows are the most commonly used denominator for paying lebollo or the bride price. A cow is a critical part of the Basotho funeral, as a cow of the same gender must be slaughtered on the morning of the funeral; the meat serving the funeral attendees that day and the skin used in rituals completed throughout the ensuing year. Cows make men’s work easier-they are often used to pull wagons, plows, and trees.

Even the cow’s excrement is a valuable commodity in Lesotho. Cow patties are often gathered and dried to be used in lieu of firewood for cooking. The traditional Basotho huts are made of a combination of dirt, cow dung, and water.
A traditional rondeval made
from cow dung.

Cows hanging outside my
door after delivering the
harvested maize last year. 
Because of the cow’s valuable role in so many aspects of Basotho culture, many local idioms include cows. Sometimes these seem direct-a cow is a cow after all-but often the meaning is deeper with the valuable cow representing a person or people:

Khomo ke molimo o nko e metsi. A cow can do everything: in Basotho culture, cows do almost everything. Similarly, people can do most things and should do all the work.  

Khomo ke kopanya liboko. Cows join clans: This one stems from cows being used as the bride price before a bride moved from her own family and clan into that of her new husband.

My supervisor was
thrilled to show off this
newborn calf.
Khomo ha e ke e nye bolokoe ka o fela. The cow doesn’t excrete all: For those that have spent a lot of time around cows, this is well known. In Sesotho, however, it is often used at the conclusion of a speech. The phrase implies the speaker is finished so as to not tell all or say to much.

Likhomo ha li na motloha pele. Cows don’t have a first: in this case, the idiom is expressing the idea that while some people or cows might get somewhere or accomplish something first, it is not a race so people should not compare themselves to one another.

Lepotlapotla le ja puli, lesisitheho le ja khomo. Be quick to eat the goat, slow to eat the cow: cows are more valuable and take more time to grow than goats, so by being patient and taking the time, people will achieve better and bigger things.

Cows pulling wagon in Lesotho

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