The Toucouleurs are a Fula
Fula people
Fula people or Fulani or Fulbe are an ethnic group spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa, but found also in Central Africa and Sudanese North Africa...

 agricultural people who live primarily in West Africa: the north of Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

 (where they comprise 15% of the population) in the Senegal River
Sénégal River
The Sénégal River is a long river in West Africa that forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania.The Sénégal's headwaters are the Semefé and Bafing rivers which both originate in Guinea; they form a small part of the Guinean-Malian border before coming together at Bafoulabé in Mali...

 valley, Mauritania
Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest...

, and Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...



The name Toucouleur has a debatable origin, with some sources stating it as a French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 creation meaning "all colors", and other sources citing it as a term that predates colonialization meaning "people from Tekrur", considering them the descendants of the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 state of Takrur
Takrur, Tekrur, or Tekrour was an ancient state of West Africa, which flourished roughly parallel to the Ghana Empire.-Origin:Takrur was the the name of the capital of the state which flourished on the lower Senegal River...

, which would make the present French form popular etymology.

Umar Tall
Umar Tall
El Hadj Umar ibn Sa'id Tall , , born in what is now actual Senegal was a West African political leader, Islamic scholar, and Toucouleur military commander who founded a brief empire encompassing much of what is now Guinea, Senegal, and Mali.-Name:Umar Tall's name is spelled variously: in...

 founded a jihad state, the Toucouleur Empire
Toucouleur Empire
The Toucouleur Empire was founded in the nineteenth century by El Hadj Umar Tall of the Toucouleur people, in part of present-day Mali....

, in present Mali in the nineteenth century.

People and society

The Toucouleurs speak the Fouta-Toro
Futa Tooro
Futa Tooro refers to the region on the Senegal River in what is now northern Senegal and southern Mauritania.The word Fuuta was a general name the Fulbe gave to any area they lived in, while Tooro was the actual identity of the region for its inhabitants. The people of the kingdom spoke Pulaar, a...

 dialect of Pulaar
Fula language
The Fula or Fulani language is a language of West Africa. It is spoken as a first language by the and related groups from Senegambia and Guinea to Cameroon and Sudan...

 (Fula). They call themselves Haapulaar’en, which means "those who speak Pulaar". They are largely Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

, although a small number are animist. Culturally, the Toucouleur only differ from other Fulas by the sedentary nature of their society.

Toucouleur society is patriarchal
Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination...

 and divided into strict hierarchies
A hierarchy is an arrangement of items in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another...

, with 12 caste
Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy, occupation, culture, social class, tribal affiliation and political power. It should not be confused with race or social class, e.g. members of different castes in one society may belong to the same race, as in India...

s subdivided into 3 classes.


When girls turn thirteen years old, they are considered eligible for marriage, or dewgal, which is arranged by her parents. While the bride-to-be celebrates with her friends, the groom goes to the mosque to validate the marriage. Later, the bride and her family go to the husband's house, where they will sit with elders and discuss the marriage. The next day, the bride's aunt will determine if the girl is a virgin, and then bathe and massage her. The bride greets the village and then her husband, and food is prepared, and eventually the celebration ends.

Childbirth and naming

One week after pémbougale (childbirth), the baby is named and a googo (sister of the father) cuts its hair. The father tells the marabout
A marabout is a Muslim religious leader and teacher in West Africa, and in the Maghreb. The marabout is often a scholar of the Qur'an, or religious teacher. Others may be wandering holy men who survive on alms, Sufi Murshids , or leaders of religious communities...

 the name he has chosen, after which the marabout whispers the name in the infant's ear and prays. Following this, the marabout informs a griot
A griot or jeli is a West African storyteller. The griot delivers history as a poet, praise singer, and wandering musician. The griot is a repository of oral tradition. As such, they are sometimes also called bards...

or gawlo, of the name that has been chosen, and the griot announces the name to the village.
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