Last updated
A billao shortsword.
Type Shortsword
Place of origin Horn of Africa
Service history
Used by Somali
Wars Dervish resistance (1896–1920)
Mass9.0 oz
Length17" to 25"
Width2½" (blade)

Blade  type iron or steel; pointed, double-edged
Hilt  type horn
Scabbard/sheath sheepskin

A billao (Somali : billaawe), also known as a belawa, is a horn-hilted Somali shortsword. It served most notably as a close-quarters weapon in the Dervish State, at the turn of the 20th century.



The dagger has a double-edged, leaf-shaped, asymmetrical blade and a three-pronged pommel. One-pronged pommels with the metal tang protruding out from the center of the hilt have been reported. Together, the grip and pommel are 6¾" in circumference. The billao's blade is made of iron or steel, and is 10½" long and 2½" wide. [1] [2] Though other horn types are also used, the handle is typically made from the horn of buffalo. [3] In total, the dagger is 17¼" long. [1] The sheath is made of sheepskin, and the sword is worn on a belt around the waist. [3]

It is said to have originated in the Togdheer, Cayn and Sool regions of present day Somaliland

See also

Related Research Articles

A sword is a bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographic region under consideration. The blade can be straight or curved. Thrusting swords have a pointed tip on the blade, and tend to be straighter; slashing swords have a sharpened cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade, and are more likely to be curved. Many swords are designed for both thrusting and slashing.

Hilt Handle of a sword or similar weapon

The hilt of a knife, dagger, sword, or bayonet is its handle, consisting of a guard, grip and pommel. The guard may contain a crossguard or quillons. A tassel or sword knot may be attached to the guard or pommel.

<i>Tantō</i> Japanese dagger

A tantō is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords (nihonto) that were worn by the samurai class of feudal Japan. The tantō dates to the Heian period, when it was mainly used as a weapon but evolved in design over the years to become more ornate. Tantō were used in traditional martial arts (tantojutsu). The term has seen a resurgence in the West since the 1980s as a point style of modern tactical knives, designed for piercing or stabbing.

Kampilan Type of Sword

The kampilan is a type of single-edged sword, traditionally used by various ethnic groups in the Philippine archipelago. It has a distinct profile, with the tapered blade being much broader and thinner at the point than at its base, sometimes with a protruding spikelet along the flat side of the tip. The design of the pommel varies between ethnic groups, but it usually depicts either a bakunawa (dragon), a buaya (crocodile), a kalaw (hornbill), or a kakatua (cockatoo).

A dirk is a long bladed thrusting dagger. Historically, it was a personal weapon of officers engaged in naval hand-to-hand combat during the Age of Sail as well as the personal sidearm of Highlanders. It was also used by the officers, pipers, and drummers of Scottish Highland regiments around 1800 and by Japanese naval officers.

The talwar, also spelled talwaar and tulwar, is a type of curved sword or sabre from the Indian subcontinent.


The pugio was a dagger used by Roman soldiers as a sidearm. It seems likely that the pugio was intended as an auxiliary weapon, but its exact purpose to the soldier remains unknown. Officials of the empire took to wearing ornate daggers in the performance of their offices, and some would wear concealed daggers as a defense against contingencies. The dagger was a common weapon of assassination and suicide; for example, the conspirators who stabbed Julius Caesar used pugiones. The pugio was descended from the daggers used by the Cantabarians.

Seax Bladed weapon

Seax is an Old English word for "knife". In modern archaeology, the term seax is used specifically for a type of small sword, knife or dagger typical of the Germanic peoples of the Migration period and the Early Middle Ages, especially the Saxons, whose name derives from the weapon. These vary considerably in size, but are mostly all-purpose tools and weapons, often carried by women as well as men.

Japanese sword mountings Housings and associated fittings that hold the blade of a Japanese sword

Japanese sword mountings are the various housings and associated fittings (tosogu) that hold the blade of a Japanese sword when it is being worn or stored. Koshirae (拵え) refers to the ornate mountings of a Japanese sword used when the sword blade is being worn by its owner, whereas the shirasaya is a plain undecorated wooden mounting composed of a saya and tsuka that the sword blade is stored in when not being used.


A jamb, also spelled jambiya', jambya, jambia and janbia, is the Arabic term for a specific type of dagger with a short curved blade with a medial ridge that originated from Yemen. It is most closely associated with the people of Najran and Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Men typically above the age of 14 wear it as an accessory to their clothing. The janbiya is commonly referred to in Oman as a khanjar, Hyderabad (India) as Jambiya, xencer in Kurdistan region.

Parrying dagger

The parrying dagger is a category of small handheld weapons from the European late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. These weapons were used as off-hand weapons in conjunction with a single-handed sword such as a rapier. As the name implies they were designed to parry, or defend, more effectively than a simple dagger form, typically incorporating a wider guard, and often some other defensive features to better protect the hand as well. They may also be used for attack if an opportunity arises. The general category includes two more specific types, the sword breaker and trident dagger.

Swords made of iron appear from the Early Iron Age, but do not become widespread before the 8th century BC.

Bichuwa Type of Dagger

The bichuwa or bichawa is a dagger, originating from the Indian subcontinent, with a loop hilt and a narrow undulating sharp blade. It is named for its resemblance to the sting of a scorpion, for which the Hindi name is bichuwa. The weapon was based on the maduvu, or horn dagger created in South India, and many bichuwa have blades which retain the shape of buffalo horns. Early examples of the bichuwa come from the medieval southern empire of Vijayanagara. Being relatively easy to make, the bichuwa has persisted into the 20th century as a decorative dagger.

Barong (sword) Type of Sword or knife

The barong is a thick, leaf-shaped, single-edged blade sword. It is a weapon used by Muslim Filipino ethnolinguistic groups like the Tausug, Sama-Bajau, or Yakan in the Southern Philippines.


Kastane is a short traditional ceremonial/decorative single-edged Sri Lankan sword.

Mughal weapons

Mughal weapons significantly evolved during the ruling periods of Babur, Akbar, Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan. During its conquests throughout the centuries, the military of the Mughal Empire used a variety of weapons including swords, bows and arrows, horses, camels, elephants, some of the world's largest cannons, muskets and flintlock blunderbusses.

Jile Type of Dagger

The Jile, also known as a Gile in Afar language, in Somali known as Qolxad or Toorey, is a type of dagger with a long curved blade found in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea. Unique to the Horn of Africa, it is the most famous and characteristic of Afar and Somali daggers. It is closely related to the Yemeni janbiya, which it highly resembles.

Piha kaetta

The piha kaetta, also sometimes called 'the Kandyan knife', is a knife or dagger native to the island of Sri Lanka. A typical piha kaetta has a straight-backed blade combined with a drop-point and a curved cutting edge. Many of the finest piha kaetta knives were produced in royal workshops, show very high levels of craftsmanship, and were given to courtiers and the nobility as status symbols.

Odi katti is an indigenous weapon of war and tools to the Kodava people of Kodagu, in the state of Karnataka, India. The ayudha katti is developed from an implement used to cut through dense undergrowth. Unlike most blades, the odi katti is worn without a sheath.

Keris bahari

A keris bahari is a long version of a keris dagger mainly used in Sumatra. It is also called kerispanjang. Keris bahari is dubbed by European people as "Sumatran rapier kris" or "execution keris".