First Description: David
Turton, c.1970
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Single laps
Region: Ethiopia
(Omo valley)

Huroy is a mancala game played by the Mursi people in the lower Omo valley, Ethiopia, at Ulichagi and Bilugu. They live in one of the least accessible areas of Ethiopia and many of them are heavily armed with guns.

The game is a recreation of adult males who play in the shade of trees. The board is dug in the ground.

Huroy was first recorded by the British anthropologist David Turton in the early 1970s who was the first European to visit them. At this time the Mursi didn't even know that they live in a country called Ethiopia.


The game is played on a two-row board of six holes (holog, pl. hologunya) per row. One end of the board is called saba ("head"), the other end karenni ("downstream"). Initially each hole contains four stones (be, pl. benna, also known as benna huroin = "huroy stones").


Initial Position

On his turn a player distributes the contents of one of his holes one by one into the ensuing holes. The move ends after a single lap.

Captures happen before sowing, rather than after. For each of a player's singletons which is opposite an occupied opponent's hole, the player captures the contents of both holes. After resolving captures, the player sows as usual.

The game ends when a player has nothing to move with. The remaining stones are won by the player who moved last.

The player who has captured more stones wins the game. Winning a game is referred to as "driving a cow".

Players try to achieve 10 victories called katog uli ("I drive a bull.").

Huroy Sayings

If a player places his penultimalte stone into his last hole of the saba end and the last stone into the opposite hole, he might say karag saba ("I hit the head."). At the other end of the board he says karag karenni ("I hit downstream.").

If a player captures just a single stone from an opponent's hole, he would say kamati lili ("I am eating two holes opposite each other."). If he captures more, he would remark kamati uro ("I am drinking milk.").


The Meen people of Kaffa province play a similar game called Gelech, which was described by Richard Pankhurst. for the first time (as Game 95). There is only one difference:

  • A player is not permitted to pick up stones from a hole opposite a singleton.


Pankhurst, R. 
Gabata and Related Board Games of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. In: Ethiopia Observer 1971; 14 (3): 201.
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