The African Tribe With Ostrich Feet: Why They Only Have Two Toes on Each Foot

11 months ago

The Doma or vaDoma tribe, also known as Dema or Wadoma, are the only traditional hunter-gatherers indigenous to Zimbabwe. They have a distinctive feature that sets them apart from other groups: their high rates of ectrodactyly, a rare genetic condition that affects the development of the fingers and toes. Let’s find out why this tribe earned the nickname of ostrich-footed people and how they live their secluded life.

In the Doma mythology, it’s believed their ancestors climbed down from a baobab tree, walking upright to hunt and gather the fruits of their land. Today, they still live a nomadic life in the mountains, filling their time with fishing, hunting, gathering wild fruits and roots. The Doma’s official language is called Dema and this secluded tribe is the only non-agricultural society in Zimbabwe.

A substantial part of the vaDoma people lives with ectrodactyly, also known as lobster claw syndrome. In this rare genetic condition, the middle 3 toes are absent, and the 2 outer ones are turned in. This is due to a single mutation on chromosome 7, and it’s inherited in an autosomal dominant manner, meaning if one parent has it, there’s a 50% chance their offspring will have it as well. This characteristic led the Domas to be known as the ostrich-footed or the two-toed people.

The Doma people are forbidden to marry outside of their group due to a tribal law; and as a result, their condition remains within their group. However, they do not view their two-toed feet as a disability. They are well-integrated into their community and are able to perform various tasks with ease. Some even believe that their rarity has given them an advantage in climbing trees.

While many of us lead busy lives in a world filled with technology, constant information, and stress, sometimes we can’t help but wonder what it’d be like to escape modern civilization and get in touch with nature and our ancestral roots.

Exploring the simple lives of tribes, far away from the urban hustle, we can get to understand the natural environment and the ancient traditions that have shaped us as humans. Meet the Pirahã people, living deep within the Amazon rainforest, known as the happiest tribe on Earth. Their happiness doesn’t stem from gadgets or gizmos but from embracing a life of simplicity.


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