Originally herdsmen in the western and central Sudan, they extended their sway east of the Niger, under the leadership of Othman Dan Fodio, during the early years of the 19th century, and having subdued the Hausa states, founded the empire of Sokoto with the vassal emirates of Kano, Gando, Nupe, Adamawa, &c.
Mahommedanism was partly adopted by the upper classes in the 18th century, if not earlier, and the son of a Mahommedan native ruler, educated at Sokoto, accepted the flag of Dan Fodio and conquered the country for the Fula.
One of the more cultivated teachers of this race, named Othman Dan Fodio, had been tutor to the king of Gobir (a district north of - Sokoto).
Thereupon Fodio unfurled the green banner of Mahomet and preached a jihad or religious war.
On the death of Fodio (c. 1819) the empire was divided between a son and a brother, the son, famous under the name of Sultan Bello, ruling at Sokoto, the brother at Gando.