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Mate Preferences in the Hadza Marlowe 2004. Mate Preferences in the Hadza. Mate Preferences in the Hadza.

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The Hadza people are an ethnic group of north-central Tanzania, living around Lake Eyasi in the central Rift Valley and in the neighboring Serengeti Plateau. The Hadza number just about 1000. About 300–400 Hadza still live as hunter-gatherers, much as their ancestors have for thousands or tens of thousands of years; they are the last functioning hunter-gatherers in Africa.

The Hadza are not closely related to any other people. Modern genetic research suggests that they are most closely related to the Pygmies.


Men specialize in hunting mammals and birds with bows and arrows, and in collecting honey

  • Meat is shared widely (but more likely to be kept in the family when wife is nursing).
  • Women specialize in collecting tubers, berries, and greens. Both collect baobab fruit.
  • Median age at first marriage = 21 for men, 17 for women
  • Marriages not arranged – Marriage = living together
  • Young females courted, can lead to violent conflict between men
  • Serial monogamy, divorce rate high
  • Cause of divorce often man pursuing an ‘extra-marital’ affair
  • Live in camps, average about 25 people, but membership continually changing
  • Males often visit other camps to find a mate
  • ~ Matrifocal – usually live with family of wife
  • Good hunters have greater reproductive success


  • Interviewed (in Swahili) 48 men (mean age 37) and 39 women (mean age 29) in several different camps (~1/2 the adult population of full-time foragers)
  • “If you were looking for a husband (wife), what kind of man (woman) would you want? What is important to you?”
  • Responses condensed as
      • Foraging
      • Looks
      • Character
      • Fertility
      • Fidelity
      • Intelligence
      • Youth

Women did not value looks any less than men

  • When fertility, youth and looks added together, and age controlled, men did value appearance more
  • Hadza men, unlike U.S. men, preferred heavy over normal or thin women, high over low waist-to-hip ratio (Marlowe & Wetsman 2001)
  • Women valued intelligence more than men (had not been well studied in modern societies at the time of this study)
  • Hadza men value fertility more than women – childlessness often a reason for divorce – like younger women (< 25)
  • Men want hard-working wives!
  • Hadza women did not place less value on fidelity than did men (though infidelity more dangerous for women)
  • Women placed more value on men being good hunters than any other trait – even though meat is shared with whole camp
    • is it because she values the resource?
    • or because it is a good overall indicator of genetic quality?