Various types






Contact us

Tiger bells in Southwest Asia


Tiger bells are of the A type.

In furniture shop 'Aarde, werelds wonen' (Amsterdam), Dolf Heubers found several tiger bells, together with other bells from Pakistan. Shop owner Marcel van den Burg gave the following details:
I bought the bells from an Afghan trader in a bazaar in Peshawar. According to the trader the bells come from the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan and are 10 to 20 years old. In certain areas, such as Kailash, where Islam is not the major religion, the bells are used as a personal adornment on clothes, such as a head dress (I have not seen this myself). In other areas the bells are used as animal bells (goats, sheep); never just one bell, but several on a belt. The bells are supposedly made in a local Afghan foundry.

The tiger bells are similar to a.o. the tiger bells from Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Tiger bell from furniture shop
De Wereld, both sides
The bell's dimensions are: wide 3,3 cm., high 3,1 cm., side 2,8 cm., hoop 1,1 cm

Tiger bell from furniture shop De Wereld, both sides
The bell's dimensions are: wide 3,4 cm., high 3,1 cm., side 2,3 cm., hoop 0,9 cm.

Marcel van den Burg traveled again to the area again in June and July 2005. He reports:
...I have received contradicting information and it is difficult to make any sense of it. Almost everywhere bringing up the subject led to great surprise. No one had ever paid any attention to the bells. People were however very willing to think and remember but this did not always lead to consistent answers.
According to one well known Afghan trader all smaller bronze bells that are locally for sale come from the Punjab, in Pakistan. Only the larger bells, without any design and mainly used for camels, were produced in local foundries. The trader does not know any foundries that are still operating and he thinks that the bells still available are therefore at least 20 to 30 years old, many often much older.
This is not consistent with what I have heard from a Pakistani trader. He told me he buys smaller bells that are produced and sold in Afghanistan and in the border area with Pakistan. However he did not know of any foundry still in operation.
I have seen myself that the nomadic Kuchi's adorn their goats and sheep with small bronze bells. Donkeys and an occasional elephant have bells on their sides

The fact that the design probably is a tiger's head did not 'ring a bell'. No one had ever given it a thought…

The original idea that tiger bells were made in a local foundry should therefore be dropped.
Bells reported in 2005, by Dolf Heubers. One bell donated to the author in 2006, the second bell in 2012.

Later, in the same shop, Dolf Heubers found another tiger bell. This bell too was acquired by shop owner Marcel van den.Burg in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The bell is a fine example of a classic A-type tiger bell and identical to some of the bells seen in Mongolia, Siberia and Southeast Asia. The bell is therefore most likely not locally made but must have arrived into the region from East Asia.

A type tiger bell from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area,
identical to some tiger bells from East Asia.

The bell's dimensions are: wide 3,3 cm., high 3,2 cm., side 2,5 cm and hoop: 0,9 cm.
Reported and donated to the author in 2012 by Dolf Heubers.

Region: unknown
On eBay, the site of, one tiger bell type A.


Islamic bronze tiger bell circa 1700-1800 AD from Afghanistan / Pakistan. 100% authentic, excellent condition, no restoration. Views from both sides. Photographs: courtesy

Possibly this bell comes from the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Dimensions unknown, probably more or less similar to the bells described above.

In a paper titled Malang, Sufis, and Mystics, the author dr. Muhammad Humayun Sidky describes the arrival of shamanism in Afghanistan:
In Central Asia, shamanism was once prevalent among the Turkic peoples, originally occupying the area of the Altai mountains. By the sixth century the Turks had invaded the Central Asian steppes, bringing with them their shamanistic beliefs along with cults of ancestors, stones, mountains, and the earth goddess Otukan. Such beliefs seem to have been shared by the Uzbeks of the Oxus delta, and the Mongols and Turkmen. The concept of Tanggri, the heaven or sky deity, along with associated shamanistic beliefs, was brought to Central Asia by the Hsiun-Nu (the Huns). These people originally occupied the Mongolian steppes to the northwest of China but, in the middle of the sixth century, were able to conquer the Central Asian steppes and defeat the Hephthalites of Afghanistan.
From the 7th century Islam became more and more dominant. However in folk religion many shamanistic rituals and practices have remained.
The full paper can be found at:
The title is: Malang, Sufis and Mystics; an ethnographic and historical study of shamanism in Afghanistan, published in the Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 49, No. 2 (1990), 275-301

The Hazara
The Hazara are a mixed group who live in the northeast of Pakistan and central and northeast Afghanistan. Some of their ancestors already lived in the area during Buddhist times, between appr. 300 B.C. and 700 A.C. Another group are descendant of soldiers in the Mongol armies that invaded many parts of Asia during the 13th to 15th century. These soldiers were mostly Turkic from Central Asia, and people of Mongolian origin. Both were animists and had shamans. The soldiers arrived in northeast Pakistan and Afghanistan; many settled there and mixed with the original inhabitants who had by then converted to Islam.

Tiger bells found in the area were most likely brought there by the shamans of the Mongols and the ancestors of the Hazara, during the invasions in the 13th to 15th century. Muslims do not use jingle bells or other types of bells, neither in religious nor in profane activities. To them all types of bells are too closely related to heathen practices. It is therefore remarkable that several examples of tiger bells are reported in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey. They probably survived as amulets for humans, or, later, as ornaments for animals.

Go back, to the top of the page or to the Table of content,
or continue to the next report

All text and photographs are copyrighted,
for information please contact F. de Jager

These pages contain no advertisements. If you see any, either as pop-ups or as links,
your computer is infected with either ad-ware or a virus.