Eagle Hunters of Western Mongolia
The Kazakh Eagle Hunters of Western Mongolia practice a unique tradition of hunting on horseback with a Golden Eagle. This centuries old tradition has remained almost unchanged and has been passed down through the generations to the current nomadic Kazakhs, who practice this ancient art of hunting for foxes, marmots and even wolves, in the frozen step land of Western Mongolia.
There are only a handful of eagle hunters left preserving this way of life and the practice is diminishing.
Eagle hunters often wear the furs of the prey caught by their eagles. Wolf and fox fur are both prized and essential clothing for the survival of the Kazakh nomads in the winter. Survival of both bird and hunter through the winter is challenging; permanent freezing conditions up to -40°C are commonplace. Winter hunts start before dawn and the Golden Eagle Hunters ride to a high mountain ridge over rough and frozen terrain and there they wait with their hooded birds until the prey moves. Once the prey is spotted, hunters remove the hoods and make a call to the eagle to signal that the prey is running. With vision that is seven times more powerful than the human eye, eagles quickly detect the prey and fly down on to frozen steppe to make the kill.
The trained eagle lives with the family and hunts with the Eagle Hunter for about eight or nine years after which it is released back into the wild for the rest of its life. Golden eagles can live to about 25 years so there is plenty of time to breed and produce new generations of birds.
All proceeds from the festival’s ticket sales will go to the Berkut Association, who will use these funds to further the organisations goals, which includes the annual arrangement of the Golden Eagle Festival.
This is a wonderful opportunity to see these magnificent birds of prey up close. An expedition into the rugged area of the Altai Mountains also affords you the opportunity to hunt with a local Eagle Hunter, as well as providing the chance to visit the local mosque, town market, provincial museum and archaeological sites.