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Kraal (also spelled craal or kraul) is an Afrikaans and Dutch word (also used in South African English) for an enclosure for cattle or other livestock, located within an African homestead or village surrounded by a palisade, mud wall, or other fencing, roughly circular in form.

In the Dutch language a kraal is a term derived from the Portuguese ,Random House Unabridged Dictionary: Kraal: "Origin: 1725–35; < Afrikaans < Portuguese curral pen" cognate with the Spanish-language , which entered into English separately.

The term primarily refers to the type of dispersed homestead characteristic of the Nguni-speaking peoples of southern Africa. Although from the period of colonisation, European South Africans commonly referred to the entire homestead as a kraal, ethnographers have long recognised that its proper referent is the animal pen area within a homestead. It is incorrect to refer to persons living in kraals. Modern ethnographers call the several human dwellings within a homestead (, , ) houses (singular indlu; plural Xhosa and Zulu , Swati ).

Folds for animals and enclosures made specially for defensive purposes are also called kraals.

In Eastern and Central Africa, the equivalent word for a livestock enclosure is boma, but this has taken on wider meanings.

Further reading

  • Potgieter, D. J. (ed.) (1972) Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa. Kapstadt: Nasionale Opvoedkundige Uitgewery ISBN 978-0-625-00322-8.
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