Mongolian Eagle hunters
There are more than 20 different ethnic groups reside in Mongolia and the largest minority group is called Kazakh. Over 100,000 Kazakh people live in western part of Mongolia such as Bayan-Olgii, Khovd and Uvs province.
History of Mongolian Eagle Hunters
Kazakh nomads have been grazing their livestock near the Altai Mountains for many hundreds of years. After the Mongolian revolution of 1921, a permanent border was established, partitioning Mongolia from China and Russia, and so the Kazakh herdsmen were given an accidental home within Mongolia.
The Kazakhs are different people from the Mongols in many ways. They look, speak and dress differently, and they pray to different gods, the Mongols being largely Tibetan Buddhist and the Kazakhs predominantly Sunni Muslims. The isolation of the Kazakhs’ land from the rest of Mongolia only that divide. Crucially, however, the Kazakhs and Mongols share a nomadic heritage, living in extended families and moving camp several times a year in search of pasture for their livestock.
Where do Kazakh eagle hunters live ?
Most of the Kazakh eagle hunters live in Sagsai, Ulgii, Altantsugts, Deluun, Altai soum, Tolbo and Ulaanhus soum.
Having so solitude and space on journeys to this otherworldly place is deeply affecting. The frozen air, when vastness of the plains and the never-ending skies filled with fear some dark clouds make one feel inconsequential. But in this barren landscape, where temperatures plummet to -40 Celsius in winter, live the last of the men who hunt with eagles.
From the Mongolian eagle hunters ; Kazakh people’s face you can easily tell how harsh the weather is in the mountain and their living in remote wilderness. Only the toughest survive here; there is no place for the weak or maimed. It’s sad to think that after hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years the hunters are slowly dying out. There are no more than fifty to sixty of the true hunters left, and each winter claims a few more. The young choose the easier life in the cities far away. Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital, one of the most polluted cities on earth, but is where most of the hunters’ children end up, looking for better opportunities.
What kind of eagles are in Mongolia?
There are seven kinds of dark-coloured eagles in Mongolia such as Booted eagles, Greater Spotted Eagle, steppe eagles, Golden eagles, Imperial eagle, white-tailed eagle and mountain-hawk eagle. Golden eagles are the one used for hunting.
The golden eagles are like no other bird. They want to be with you. They love you. And they love to kill for you. When the times comes to let them go, it’s the hardest thing a man can ever do. One hunter said that he had more than twenty eagles in his life. Now he doesn’t have any more eagle as the last one left a year ago. His eagle is his family member so he often worries about her survival back in the nature.
This is a hard land, a big land with few people and a lot of space. The environment has changed since his childhood. The winters used to be a lot of colder and longer, and there are fewer eagles now making their nests around these parts. Maybe they migrated to somewhere else.
Now there are fewer hunters in Bayan-olgii and hunting with eagle is no longer real man’s game. Saving the tradition becomes challenge for today’s eagle hunters.
What do eagle hunters do ?
Eagle hunting is not easy work. Hunters have to prepare their horse, and they must be healthy. They go hunting early in the morning, even in cold weather and snowstorms, and sometimes return days later. But now people find that difficult. They want only to be inside, in the warm, and they keep their eagles just for festivals and treat them as pets.
How to train an eagle to hunt ?
Hunters catch young bird from the eagle nest which built high on the rock. They look for an eagle of about four years’ old that has lived in the wild and been on a hunt. Appropriate candidate must be able to live without its mother and learn to live with people. Only females are taken, as they are larger than more powerful and aggressive than the males- with a wingspan of 2.5 meters and weighting up to 7 kilograms when fully grown.
Hunters start feeding the eagle with hand after returning home and build trust. Also they take it on hunt. The Golden eagles can live for up to thirty years. Older the eagles, smarter they become. Eagles become more acquainted with hunting environment that helps them to master the skill.
The golden eagle is a perfect predator. A fox is an easy prey, and when hunting in pairs, eagles are capable of bringing down a wolf. They look noble and distinguished- just like their masters. And their eyesight is amazing, markedly better than a human’s; their eyes seem to burn with a real intelligence and ferocity. If it sees the fox in the valley below, the eagle takes its time waiting for the right moment. Then without warning, it will raise its wings and dive like a bullet, leaving a rush of air in its wake as the hunter makes screeching sound, urging it on.
By the time eagle lands on its prey, hunter feeds eagle with piece of the meat and separate the eagle claw from the fur to avoid damage. They use the fur for clothing and making hat. They hunt fox in the first days snowed in October onward to the spring.
Why are eagles blindfolded?
Eagles are blindfolded because they can feel safe and calm. Hunters take the hoods during the hunt and feeding.
What do Kazakh eagle hunters eat and drink ?
Mongolian eagle hunters Kazakh people eat horse meat called kaz and drink milk tea.
What do Kazakh eagle hunters wear?
They wear fox fur jacket, hat and skin gloves.
How many eagle huntresses are there?
Aisholpan Nurgaiv is the first well known eagle huntress from Altantogts soum, Mongolia. Following her, there are 12 eagle huntresses practice the tradition in Tolbo, Ulaanhus, Altai and Sagsai soum.
- Aigerim – 14 years old from Altai soum
- Zamanbol – 16 years old from Sagsai soum
Mongolian eagle hunting festival
Mongolian eagle hunting festival is premium festival takes place in Olgii, western Mongolia and Ulaanbaatar. These two days event challenges eagle hunters’ and eagles’ speed and alertness as the owner calls the eagle from the distance and the eagle distinguishes him/her flying and landing upon their arms.
Experience authentic challenges among participants from a 13 years old child to the old men who traveled even over hundreds of km for the festival. The last day is full of surprises, including various challenges, winners’ announcement and more. The challenge calls Golden eagle to attack fox skin that dragged by their owners on horseback and judge on their speed and technique. Discover how Golden eagles are good at hunting with the help of their owner’s alertness. Another unique competition challenges Kazakhs play; a traditional game challenges horse-riding skill and strength. Cherish winners of the festival and share their victory. Also beautiful dressed couples will be awarded among participants.
- Sagsai eagle hunting festival – 2nd weekend of September
- Golden eagle hunting festival – first weekend of October
- Altai nomads eagle hunting festival – February 23 and 24
- Winter golden eagle festival – March 05 and 06
Mongolian Golden eagle festival
Golden eagle festival is the biggest eagle event in Mongolia that includes authentic hundreds of trainers from all over Olgii province. The festival has been held more than 20 years now and well known event for thousands of tourists. The festival date is fixed and the first weekend of every year. Make sure to check the detailed program and experience lifetime event.
- Golden eagle hunting festival – first weekend of October