ostrich-footed people: The African Tribe With Ostrich Feet, Why They Only Have Two Toes on Each Foot

ostrich-footed people: The Doma or vaDoma tribe, also known as Dema or Wadoma, is the only traditional hunter-gatherer group indigenous to Zimbabwe. They possess a distinguishing feature that sets them apart from other groups: an unusually high incidence of ectrodactyly, a rare genetic condition that affects the development of fingers and toes. Let’s delve into why this tribe has been dubbed the “ostrich-footed people” and explore their secluded way of life.

Vadoma-ostrich-footed people

According to Doma mythology, their ancestors descended from a baobab tree and began walking upright to hunt and gather the fruits of their land. Presently, they continue to lead a nomadic existence in the mountains, spending their time fishing, hunting, and gathering wild fruits and roots. The Doma communicate in a language known as Dema, and this secluded tribe represents the sole non-agricultural society in Zimbabwe.

Unveiling the Enigma of the Ostrich-Footed People

A significant portion of the vaDoma population lives with ectrodactyly, commonly referred to as lobster claw syndrome. In this rare genetic condition, the middle three toes are absent, and the two outer toes are turned inward. This is caused by a specific mutation on chromosome 7 and is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. Consequently, if one parent has the condition, there is a 50% chance their offspring will also have it. This distinct characteristic has led to the Doma tribe being recognized as the ostrich-footed or two-toed people.


Due to tribal law, the Doma people are prohibited from marrying outside their group, ensuring that their condition remains confined within the tribe. However, they do not perceive their two-toed feet as a disability. They are fully integrated into their community and are capable of performing various tasks with ease. Some individuals even believe that their rarity has bestowed upon them an advantage in tree climbing.

By exploring the simple lives of tribes situated far away from the urban bustle, we can gain an understanding of the natural environment and ancient traditions that have shaped us as humans.

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