Geoparks Africa
World Heritage Sites

Kerit: The Big Foot that terrorized East African Landscapes

Sometime in 1925, a six-year-old girl disappeared from a village in Uasin Gishu.

She was pulled violently through the fence of thorns that surrounded the village.

The bloodied thorns suggested that chances of finding her alive were certainly nil.

If they found her body, they would find her scalped and her skull cracked open. Chemosit, the brain-eating terror that roamed the night, had struck again.

In response, the colonial government sent in Captain William Hitchens, an officer with the Intelligence and Administrative Services of East Africa.

Hitchens was an adventurer with numerous encounters hunting beasts in East Africa.

In 1900, he had reported sighting a small biped animal called agogwe somewhere in the Wembare plains in Tanganyika.

That was a prelude of the accounts about a mysterious creature lurking deep in the heart of East Africa.

The mysterious creature in question was known as the Nandi bear.

This fabled creature takes its name from the Nandi people of Kenya, in the area where it is said to reside, or at least, frequently sighted.

In Tanzania a similar creature used to be sighted in Monduli, then part of the Maasai district of Arusha and there are reports that it was later speared to death by an old man a hunter known as Marikino.

All the same Kerit, the Nandi bear on the Kenyan side remains a legendary creature, albeit a giant one, that has captured the imaginations of the people who live there.

The hairy creature is essentially the East African version of ‘Big Foot.’

Legend has it that the Nandi bear has a fearsome appearance, with reddish hair plus long, muscular and powerful feet.

Kerit is a killer, said to prey upon unsuspecting travelers, leaving behind only the brains of its victims after making away with their heads.

Most of the accounts we have of such encounters are of European explorers and administrators, but tales of the animal did exist among the Nandi and other tribes.

The creature trail also had paw-prints, a few times larger than a man’s hand or a lion’s paw and showing imprints of claws.

Among the Lumbwa, the predator decimated 67 goats by ripping out their brains in 1919.

In 1913, CW Hobley wrote about a similarly frightening animal that had been killed in Ngao in the Tana River.

The creature targeted heads, ripping them off from the necks, splitting skulls and doing other macabre deeds to humans.

In order to avoid being attacked, some people have resorted to wearing baskets and pots on their heads as a decoy.

Sightings of the Nandi bear have been reported for centuries, with some of the earliest accounts dating back to the 19th century.

While it has never been caught or identified, its fearsome reputation has endured. Some believe that it may be an extinct anthropoid ape, lost to the mists of time.

One of the most famous sightings of the Nandi bear was made by explorer Geoffrey Williams in 1905, who encountered a beast in Uasin Gishu that he described as heavily-built and with a long pointed head.

Despite his frightening experience, Williams did not speak of it for seven years, until other sightings were reported.

The District Commissioner of Eldoret, NEF Corbett, had his own chilling encounter with the Nandi bear in 1913 while fishing in the Sirgoi River.

He lived to tell the tale, but described the beast as shuffling away into the undergrowth after he heard it drinking nearby.

While crypto-zoologists have suggested that the Nandi bear may be an amalgamation of different animals, including a giant hyena and a giant baboon.

Still, the truth remains shrouded in mystery. Nonetheless, the Nandi bears Golf club in Nandi Hills bears witness to the enduring legacy of this mythical creature.

The Nandi Bear is known among the Nandi by many names including Vere, Kerit, Chemoset (Chemusil) Sabrookoo, Duba, Kikambangwe, Ngoloko depending on the place of sighting.

It was also known as Ngoloko in Tanzania and the coastal regions.

In West Africa the creature was called Kikomba. Among the Lumbwa people of Kenya it was known as Gadett, while the Luhya of Kakagema reffered to it as Shivuverre.

And like the Big Foot or Yeti in Europe the hairy creature of Eastern Africa remains a mystery or even myth.