The Toucouleur people, also called Tukulor or Haalpulaar, are a West African ethnic group. They are found mostly in Futa Toro region of Senegal, with some in Mali, the Toucouleur have been Muslims who embraced Islam in the 11th century, their early and strong Islamic heritage is a matter of great pride for them. They speak the Fulani language, and are distinct from but related to the Fula, Wolof, the Toucouleur are traditionally sedentary, settled primarily in the Senegal River valley, with farming, fishing and raising cattle as their main activities. The Toucouleur society has been patrilineal, polygynous and with high social stratification that included slavery, there are an estimated 1 million Toucouleur people in West Africa. They are found primarily in the regions of Senegal where they constitute 15% of the population. This region is irrigated by the Senegal River valley, overlaps southern Mauritania, during the colonial era, and in the modern times, some of the Toucouleurs resettled in western Mali. They are about a million Toucouleur people in Senegal River valley area, the Fulani language, also called the Fula or Pulaar, is their first language. It is an Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo language family of languages, locally, they are variously referred to as Pulaar, Torooɓe, Futanke, or Haalpulaar. The name Toucouleur is of unclear origin, with sources stating it as a French derivation meaning of color. According to the traditions of the Toucouleurs and Serer people. This tradition is supported by scholars including Foltz and Phillips. A mutually acceptable bantering-style interaction, called the relationship by anthropologists, exists between the Serers and Toucouleurs. The Toucouleur people have inhabited the Senegal River area, with roots of an organized Tekrur kingdom tracing back to the 5th century. They were part of the 10th to the 18th century kingdom, in the 18th century, a Toucouleur empire emerged which reached its peak influence in the 19th century under the Islamic leader El Hadj Umar Tall. Umar was born in a Toucouleur clerical family in 1797, during his visit to Mecca in 1827, he was designated as the Caliph of Black Africa. He returned to West Africa in 1833, and learnt political, Umar Tal returned to Senegal in 1845, where he began preaching Islam among the Toucouleur people. Umar Tal obtained weapons from Europe, then mobilized the Toucouleur to pursue an Islamic holy war in 1854 against the ethnic groups. The Toucouleur Empire grew and extended from Senegal to much of Mali over the ten years
A Tukulor man and woman (1853 David Boilat painting)
A Toucouleur interpreter called Alpha Sega with his sisters. Image taken in 1882.