The Murut tribe is one of the largest indigenous groups in Sabah as it comprises subgroups such as Baukan, Gana’, Kalabakan, Okolod, Paluan, Sulangai, Serudung, Tagal, Timugon, and the Beaufort and Keningau Murut.
The tribe inhabits the interior and southeastern parts of Sabah and the territory straddling the Kalimantan and Sarawak borders. Those of Murut origin speak 15 languages and 21 dialects. The language commonly used and understood by the large majority is Tanggal. Their language is also related to the Kadazandusun languages.
In the past, the Murut tribe was feared for their ancient tradition of headhunting practices. They were the last ethnic group in Sabah to renounce headhunting. Back then, collecting heads of enemies traditionally served a very important role in Murut’s spiritual beliefs, besides utilizing it to protect their village from potential enemies. For example, a man could only get married after he presented at least one head to the family of the desired girl.
Today, most of them have converted to Christianity and some to Islam. Traditionally living in longhouses, the tribe is also well-known for its music and handcrafts.