Anthropological discussions of pastoralists often rank groups along a continuum from partial to "pure" pastoralists. This approach is criticized and an ecological perspective in "defining" pastoralists is advocated.
Anthropologists have presented one group of pastoralists, the Masai, in a particularly coonfusing manner. On the one hand, the Masai are put forward as the ideal example of a herding society. But paradoxically, their reported exclusive subsistence on cattle has led researchers to single them out as unique and anomalous. This thesis argues that such a perception of the Masai is in error. It is a view that stems 1) fron a continuum approach to ranking pastoralists which thereby creates a need for a "pure" form, 2) fron a romanticized view of the Masai which neglects the roles in their society of trade, other livestock and women, 3) from a male bias among researchers, and 4) from a failure of researchers to distinguish between what informants say, and what actually exists.