260px, An illustration of a kraal near Bulawayo in the 19th century. Kraal (also spelled ''craal'' or ''kraul'') is an Afrikaans and Dutch language, Dutch word, also used in South African English, for an pen (enclosure), enclosure for cattle or other livestock, located within a Southern African Human settlement, settlement or village surrounded by a fence of thorn-bush branches, a palisade, sod, mud defensive wall, wall, or other fencing, roughly circular in form. It is similar to a ''Boma (enclosure), boma'' in eastern or central Africa. In Curaçao, another Dutch colony, the enclosure was called "koraal" which in Papiamentu is translated "kura" (still in use today for any enclosed terrain, like a garden).


In the Afrikaans language a ''kraal'' is a term derived from the Portuguese language, Portuguese word , cognate with the Spanish-language , which entered into English separately. In Eastern and Central Africa, the equivalent word for a livestock enclosure is ''Boma (enclosure), boma'', but this has taken on wider meanings. In some Southern African regions, the term Kraal is used in scouting to refer to the team of Scout Leaders of a group.


The term primarily refers to the type of dispersed Homestead (small African settlement), homestead characteristic of the Nguni languages, Nguni-speaking peoples of southern Africa. Although from the period of colonisation, European South Africans and historians commonly referred to the entire settlement as a ''kraal'', ethnographers have long recognised that its proper referent is the animal pen area within a homestead. Modern ethnographers call the several human dwellings within a homestead ( xh, umzi, zu, umuzi, st, mutsi, ss, umuti) houses (singular ''indlu''; plural Xhosa and Zulu , Sotho , Swati ). Folds for animals and enclosures made specially for defensive purposes are also called kraals.

Zulu kraals

For the Zulu people, the kraal, or ''isibaya'', in the Zulu language, acts as a homestead, a site for ritual worship, and as a defensive position. It's laid out as a circular arrangement of beehive-shaped huts called ''iQukwane'', which were traditionally constructed by women, surrounding a cattle enclosure. They are always built on one of Zululand's many hills, orientated downwards. The term "kraal" refers both to the village itself and the central cattle enclosure.


Kraals are built on a hill sloping downwards, with the entrance facing the bottom of the hill for sanitary, defensive, and ritual purposes. There's an outside wooden fence that encompasses the entire kraal, and then an interior one for the cattle enclosure. The hut opposite of the entrance was the home of either the chief's mother or the chief himself. The huts closest to the chief's were those of his wives, with the great wife closest to his own. Closer to the entrance, the huts of the sons of the village were placed on the left side and the huts of the daughters of the village on the right. In each hut would be an u''msamo'', a special ritual area, with the most important ''umsamo'' located in the chief's hut. The huts nearest the entrance were used for guests and visitors. Additionally, there would be multiple watchtowers in the kraal.

Ritual uses

The ''umsamo'' within the chief's hut was an important site for communicating with ancestor spirits. Similarly, there would be a site on the cattle enclosure's west side for performance of rituals directed at ancestors. These rituals were usually carried out by the headman, an important ceremonial position in traditional Zulu society.


See also

*Animal pound


Further reading

* Potgieter, D. J. (ed.) (1972) ''Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa''. Cape Town: Nasionale Opvoedkundige Uitgewery . * * ''Brockhaus Enzyklopädie''. 21. Auflage. Mannheim: Brockhaus F.A., 2006 ; Volume 15. * ''Encyclopædia Britannica, The New Encyclopædia Britannica''. 15th ed. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2007 {{ISBN, 978-1-59339-292-5 (Micropædia, Volume 6). Fortifications by type Human habitats Fences South African English Dutch words and phrases Afrikaans words and phrases Zulu words and phrases