In southern Africa, an enclosure or group of houses surrounding an enclosure for livestock, or the social unit that inhabits these structures. The term has been more broadly used to describe the associated way of life. Among some Zulus, the traditional kraal consists of a number of huts arranged in a circle around a cattle corral. Where polygyny is practiced, each wife often has her own hut. The word kraal has also been applied to the temporary encampments of the Masai of eastern Africa.
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The term primarily refers to the type of dispersed homestead characteristic of the Nguni-speaking peoples of southern Africa. Although from the period of colonization white South Africans commonly referred to the entire homestead as a kraal, ethnographers have long recognized that its proper referent is the animal pen area within a homestead, and that it is incorrect to speak of persons living in kraals. The several human dwellings within a homestead (Xhosa umzi, Zulu umuzi, Swati umuti) are called houses (singular indlu; plural Xhosa and Zulu 'izindlu', Swati 'tindlu') by modern ethnographers.
Folds for animals and enclosures made specially for defensive purposes are also called kraals.