The mainstay of life for the Massai is the herding of cattle. The more cows a Massai has, the richer he is perceived. According to the legend of the rain god “NgaI”, all cows on the face of the earth were granted to the Massai. Accordingly, other owners of cattle were looked upon as cattle rustlers, and their cattle could be rightly stolen. This practice led to many conflicts with the surrounding tribes, even into the 20th Century.
Cows are only butchered on special occasions. In addition to cows, goats are also kept to supplement the need for meat. Corn has become the main means of subsistence for the Massai. The Massai themselves are not farmers, but instead either buy their corn or trade for it. Only in the rarest occasions do the Massai carry on farming.
In the past the Massai existed on the milk, the blood and the meat from their animals. Even today they occasionally cut the jugular vein of their cattle in order to drink the blood.