BaggĀra ("Cowherds"), African "Arabs" of Semitic origin, so called because they are great cattle owners and breeders. They occupy the country west of the White Nile between the Shilluk territory and Dar Nuba, being found principally in Kordofan. They are true nomad Arabs, having intermarried little with the Nuba, and have preserved most of their national characteristics. The date of their arrival in the Sudan is uncertain: they appear to have drifted up the Nile valley and to have dispossessed the original Nuba population. A purely pastoral people, they move from pasture to pasture, as food becomes deficient. The true Baggāra tribesmen employ oxen as saddle and pack animals, carry no shield, and though many possess firearms the customary weapons are lance and sword. They have always had the reputation of being resolute fighters. Engaged from the earliest times in the slave trade, they were among the first, as they were certainly the most fervent, supporters of the mahdi when he rose in revolt against the Egyptians (1882). They constituted his real fighting force, and to their fanatical courage his victories were due. Their decision to follow him out of their own country to Khartum brought about the fall of that city.
The mahdi's successor, the khalifa Abdullah, was a Baggāra, and throughout his rule the tribe held the first place in his favour. They have been described as "men who look the fiends they really are - of most sinister expression, with murder and every crime speaking from their savage eyes. Courage is their only good quality." They are famous, too, as hunters of big game, attacking even elephants with sword and spear. G. A. Schweinfurth declares them the best-looking of the Nile nomads, and the men are types of physical beauty, with fine heads, erect athletic bodies and sinewy limbs. There is little that is Semitic in their appearance. Their skins vary in colour from a dark red-brown to a deep black; but their features are regular and free of negro characteristics. In mental power they are much superior to the indigenous races around them. They have a passion for fine clothes and ornaments, tricking themselves out with glass trinkets, rings and articles of ivory and horn. Their mode of hair-dressing (mop-fashion) earned them, in common with the Hadendoa, the name of "Fuzzy-wuzzies" among the British soldiers in the campaigns of 1884-98.
See G. A. Schweinfurth, Heart of Africa (1874); Sir F. R. Wingate, Mahdism and the Egyptian Sudan (1891), Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, edited by Count Gleichen (1905); A. H. Keane, Ethnology of the Egyptian Sudan (1884).