The Murut

Murut boy, North Borneo

Be brave enough to hunt down your ego first, and you have won over life’s battles

- Murut wisdom

The Murut people are an indigenous ethnic group inhabiting the northern inland regions of Borneo. They are also found in eastern Malaysia, North Kalimantan and Brunei where they once supplied warriors to the Sultans of Bunei.

The Murut were the last of the ethnic groups located in Sabah (formerly the British colony of North Borneo) to renounce headhunting. Their beliefs and customs regarding headhunting were similar to those of the Iban Dayak of Sarawak. Today, they maintain the traditions and culture although most have converted to Islam and a smaller percentage to Christianity. They retain  deeply rooted beliefs in Pagan-animalistic spiritualism.

They live mostly in the uplands of Sabah state in northeastern Malaysia, in longhouse settlements on hilltops for defence. They were gradually displaced into the interior by immigrant settlers. Muruts are the ‘hill people’ who lived by the Tohol River and migrated to other regions of Sabah. They cultivated rice and tapioca on hills, also hunted and fished for livelihood. Since 1963, Sabah has been a state of Malaysia. In 1921, the tribe was clearly decling with a population of 30,300. Their numbers diminished to 18,700 by 1951 and then began to increase again. The decline is thought to be due to a form of malaria to which they had no resistance. 

Murut swords in my collection:


Traditional Murut longhouse in Penampang, Sabah, Malaysia (Photo  © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas)


1912. No known copyright restrictions.