1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gallas
GALLAS, or more correctly Galla, a powerful Hamitic people of eastern Africa, scattered over the wide region which extends for about 1000 m. from the central parts of Abyssinia to the neighbourhood of the river Sabaki in British East Africa. The name “Galla” or “Gala” appears to be an Abyssinian nickname, unknown to the people, who call themselves Ilm’ Orma, “sons of men” or “sons of Orma,” an eponymous hero. In Shoa (Abyssinia) the word is connected with the river Gala in Guragie, on the banks of which a great battle is said to have been fought between the Galla and the Abyssinians. Arnaud d'Abbadie says that the Abyssinian Moslems recount that, when summoned by the Prophet's messenger to adopt Islam, the chief of the Galls said “No,”—in Arabic kāl (or gāl) la, and the Prophet on hearing this said, “Then let their very name imply their denial of the Faith.” Of all Hamitic peoples the Galla are the most numerous. Dr J. Ludwig Krapf estimated them (c. 1860) at from six to eight millions; later authorities put them at not much over three millions. Individual tribes are said to be able to bring 20,000 to 30,000 horsemen into the field.
Hardly anything is definitely known as to the origin and early home of the race, but it appears to have occupied the southern part of its present territory since the 16th century. According to Hiob Ludolf and James Bruce, the Galla invaders first crossed the Abyssinian frontiers in the year 1537. The Galla of Gojam (a district along the northern side of the river Abai) tell how their savage forefathers came from the south-east from a country on the other side of a bahr (lake or river), and the Yejju and Raia Galla also point towards the east and commemorate the passage of a bahr. Among the southern Galls tradition appears to be mainly concerned with the expulsion of the race from the country now occupied by the Somali. Their original home was possibly in the district east of Victoria Nyanza, for the tribes near Mount Kenya are stated to go on periodical pilgrimages to the mountain, making offerings to it as if to their mother. A theory has been advanced that the great exodus which it seems certain took place among the peoples throughout eastern Africa during the 15th century was caused by some great eruption of Kenya and other volcanoes of equatorial Africa. As a geographical term Galla-land is now used mainly to denote the south-central regions of the Abyssinian empire, the country in which the Galla are numerically strongest. There is no sharp dividing line between the territory occupied respectively by the Galla and by the Somali.
In any case the Galla must be regarded as members of that vast eastern Hamitic family which includes their neighbours, the Somali, the Afars (Danakil) and the Abyssinians. As in all the eastern Hamites, there is a perceptible strain of Negro blood in the Galla, who are, however, described by Sir Frederick Lugard as “a wonderfully handsome race, with high foreheads, brown skins, and soft wavy hair quite different from the wool of the Bantus.” As a rule their features are quite European. Their colour is dark brown, but many of the northern Galla are of a coffee and milk tint. The finest men are to be found among the Limmu and Gudru on the river Abai.