You are in the middle of the report.
If you have not passed the main screen, please click on the button.

Tiger bells in Indonesia


There are numerous reports of tiger bells in Indonesia, the majority from East Kalimantan (Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of Borneo), but also in other parts of the country. All bells are of the A type, in sizes varying from about 2 to 4 cm.

Group: Benuaq
Twenty bells with tiger bells of varying size, but with round hoops; on a belt worn by a shaman ('belian').
Reported in 1985.

Group: Kenyah
Several tiger bells in various sizes, tied to children's ankles as an amulet. Seen in one village (Long Bagun Ilir, Mahakam river). When asked about the age of the bells, the answer was that they were already in the possession of the 'orang keturunan' ('the people that came down'): the ancestors who lived in the forests. A date or time could not be given. Reported in 1985.

Group: Lanun
Two larger tiger bells on a kampilan (sword). Photograph in 'Schwerter von Celebes' by Foy, published in 1899.

Collection Ethnographic Museum, Dresden

Illustration: detail from plate 1

Group: Kayan
In 'Travels through Borneo' (1935) an drawing with the caption 'Hawk's bell on Kayan necklace (Peek Coll.)'

Group: Bahau
One bell in a bundle of ordinary bells, similar to a tiger bell from Sulawesi reported by Kaudern. Photographed and collected in 1985.

Group: various Dayak groups
In the Leyden museum (Leyden, Neth.): several baby carriers from East and Central Kalimantan, one with 12 tiger bells, another with 5 tiger bells, together with ordinary pellet bells.

In the Tropen museum (Amsterdam, Neth.): A baby carrier with 3 bells (originally there were 7 to 8 bells).

In the Nijmegen University museum (Nijmegen, Neth.): several bells on various objects such as a walking stick, a cloth covered with bead work and several bells in bundles combined with 4 to 6 ordinary bells.

Several examples of tiger bells, used as an amulet, in author's collection.

There are several illustrations with tiger bells in 'Hornbill and Dragon' by Bernardo Sellato (Elf Aquitaine Indonesia, 1989)

Group: Toraja
One tiger bell, described in 'Art in Celebes' by Walter Kaudern (1944):
'These bells are laterally flattened with a square hoop, perforated for a suspending string. Below there is a rather broad slot, possibly meant to represent the mouth of an animal, two knobs on either side, surrounded by rings, looking like two eyes.'
Volume III, page 78, picture 77. The actual bell is in the Leyden Museum.
An illustration in 'Art in Celebes' by Walter Kaudern of a collar of bead work and coins and bells. Description:
'Common bells and globular bells which the North Toraja use for ornamental purposes have more or less a religieus meaning with them.(....) Certain globular bells are covered with ornaments, such as the one seen in fig. 222E and E1 but these are of Chinese import.'
In the National Museum in Jakarta: one smaller tiger bell, tied to a dance stick (ro-ro). Collected in 1938, on display in 1983, later removed from the exhibition.

One small tiger bell, originally tied to a stick, used by tribal elders for ceremonial purposes and dancing. Age of the bell was estimated by the shop owner as 'older than Majapahit' (AD 1300).
Author's collection

In the Municipal museum of Figueira da Foz (Portugal): a horse belt with four tiger bells, collected in 1894.

Group: Minangkabau
In the Leyden Museum: two bells tied together, collected in Sungai Puar (no year given).The bells were used for cats.

A Minangkabau blacksmith told me that tiger bells could probably still be found with the 'people from Sijunjung and those living on the slopes of the Merapi'.

Group: Toba Batak
In the Medan Regional Museum: one smaller tiger bell, tied to a ceremonial belt ('semara'), used in ritual dances by religious leaders.

Group: unknown, possibly Toba
One tiger bell, roughly made, bought in an antique shop in Prapat in 1986.

Group: unknown
One tiger bell, said to used for horses. Bought in 1985.

Group: unknown, but probably used in Bali
One tiger bell, said to be used for horses; bought in 1983.

One small tiger bell, in an antique shop in Klaten. The owner said that the bell was Chinese and dated from the T'ang dynasty, appr. 500 AD. Reported in 1981.

One bell, in the collection of the Mankunegara Kraton in Solo, together with several ordinary bells.

Click on Go-Back in the menu-bar...
or go to the:
Introduction page
Reports of tiger bells in various countries
Description of various types of tiger bells
Observations and tentative conclusions
Reactions and opinions
Table of distribution and use
List of illustrations
Home page

Thank you for your attention and cooperation.

Go back to the start of the page.