A billao shortsword.
TypeShortsword or long dagger
Place of originHorn of Africa
Service history
Used bySomali
WarsDervish resistance (1896–1920)
Mass9 oz (260 g)
Length17 to 25 in (43 to 64 cm)
Width(2.5 in (6.4 cm) (blade)

Blade typeiron or steel; pointed, double-edged
Hilt typehorn

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


The billao 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 6.75 in (17.1 cm) in circumference. The billao's blade is made of iron or steel, and is 10.5 in (27 cm)" long and 2.5 in (6.4 cm)" 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 17.25 in (43.8 cm)" 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 occupied regions of present-day Somaliland

See also