Suk al-baggar: “Market of the Cows”

Photography by Joshua Thulin and Mike Delorenzo, Written by Heidi Thulin

Cattle markets in Chad are important venues for commerce and socialization and are a melting pot of several of Chad’s unreached people groups. They are located on the outskirts of town, because the bustle of activity and the plumes of dust generated by all the commotion makes it necessary to be away from the main food and clothing market.

Many of the peoples of Chad are still nomadic or semi-nomadic. If the cattle market happens to be on their migration route, herders will stop for the day and showcase some of their animals. Healthy livestock represents wealth and prosperity, so even Chadians who have settled in the towns still have small herds of goats, donkeys, cows, horses, or camels.

The cattle market is also where people purchase a ram or bull to slaughter for Islamic holiday celebrations or for special events like a wedding, funeral, circumcision, or naming ceremony.

Many men visit the market simply to watch the action. They gather in the small pockets of shade, sit on mats, and drink tea while talking about national news, politics, or the particularly impressive livestock present at the market that day.

Men dress in long jalabiyas and white turbans to protect themselves from the hot sun. As the day progresses, the sandy ground becomes increasingly difficult to traverse, and the smell of roasted goat meat mingles with that of dust and sweat.



Around the perimeter of the fenced-in pen, women set up small tents where they sell short lengths of rope to lead the animals, cook fresh meat and other foods, and stir boiling pots of sweet, hot tea.



In many African business transactions, developing a relationship between the buyer and seller, usually over a cup of tea, is a key part of the process. At the Chadian cattle market, however, when it comes to purchasing a bull, the interaction is purely business.

A man examines the animal to gauge its health, loudly barters with the owner to settle on a price, pays the livestock tax as he exits the market, and arranges for the animal’s transportation back to his home.

The price of a bull fluctuates widely depending on the border relations between Chad and Nigeria. A healthy bull will sometimes fetch over $1,000, and other times, the price drops to $400.

Nearly eighty of Chad’s two hundred people groups are considered unreached, and most of those people have no known Christians in their midst. This mission field is large and vast and difficult, but God is bigger. Just as the shepherds lead and guide the cattle to the market, God is able to gather these tribes into His kingdom.

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