What is dambe?

What is dambe? What rules this form of boxing has? Find out a lot of interesting information in this article!


Dambe is a form of boxing. It is associated with the Hausa people of West Africa. Previously Dambe included a wrestling component called "Kokawa." However, today it is only a striking art. The name "Dambe" derives from the Hausa word for "boxe".

Traditional Hausa boxing

The tradition is dominated by Hausa butcher caste groups. Over the last century, this form of boxing evolved from clans of butchers traveling to farm villages at harvest time. So the fighting challenge by the outsiders was integrated into local harvest festival entertainment.

Traditionally, the dambe was also practised as a preparation for the war for men. But the modern Hausa fighting is different. Companies of boxers travel throughout the traditional Hausa homelands of southern Nigeria, northern Nigeria, and southwestern Chad. They perform here outdoor matches accompanied by ceremony and drumming.

Hausa boxing

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In Dambe competitors are reasonably matched in size even though there are no formal weight classes.

There are three rounds without any specific time limits. Matches end in three cases. The first one is when one of the participants or an official calls a halt. The second reason for the end is a lack of the activity. Finally, the third case is when a fighter's hand, knee, or body touches the ground. Knocking the opponent down is called killing the enemy.


dambe participants

In the past tournaments took place between men of butchers’ guilds. They challenged men from their village audiences.

Talking about modern tournaments, the participants here are usually urban youths who train in gyms or backyards.  An important part of the event remains the side betting for spectators and prize purses for competitors. 

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