6,000-Year-Old ‘Eagle Tradition Mongolia’ Loses

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Eagle Tradition Mongolia

The Altai region to the west of Mongolia is one of the most remote areas in the world. Although a few ancient roads connect the whole area. No light of modern civilization has reached there yet. In winter, snow-capped peaks can be seen over a wide area, and on hot days, gray sandy terrain can be seen.

Eagle Tradition Mongolia

Geographically, the area borders Mongolia, Kazakhstan, China, and Russia, respectively. However, there is no border wall. As a result, it is often not clear which place belongs to which state. However, the relevant place in our discussion today is Bayan Aligir, one of the provinces of Mongolia.

About 3,000 feet [3,000 m] above sea level, this barren land of Altai is inhabited by a special indigenous people. They came here from Kazakhstan a long time ago, so their name is Kazakh. They have a special hat made of a combination of fox skin and fur on their head and a special dress made of sheepskin and fur. Not only are these varied garments their specialty, but they also retain many ancient traditions. The most exciting of these traditions is the hunting eagle pet.

Mongolia’s 6,000- Year-Old ‘Eagle Tradition

The tradition of domesticating eagles dates back at least 6,000 years. It is known that the world-famous Mongolian leaders Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan also used to feed the hunting eagle. Each of them had more than a thousand hunting eagles. They used to conduct multiple expeditions with those eagles. Marco Polo, a prominent Italian tourist, mentions in his document the memoirs of eagles used in war and aristocracy.

The Kazakh tribes of Mongolia still retain that tradition. This predatory eagle is very important to them as a means of survival in barren lands. The hunting eagle pet is locally called Barkutsi. But now that tradition is under threat. Now only about 250 people are involved in this historic work. Bik Bolat is one of them.

Kazakhs are the majority population in the Bayan Aligi province of Mongolia. They were first discovered by police in the Russian Empire in the mid-18th century. Even then, these indigenous people, who kept their prey for eagle hunting, kept themselves completely isolated from the modern world. There they survive the bitter cold and snow of winter. He built his small hut for a living. They call these huts ‘Gers’. As a profession, they have chosen to hunt wild animals with hunting eagles. In winter they hunt on horseback with trained eagles.

A strong bond developed between these hunting eagles and their masters. The eagle is by nature a very independent bird. As a result, it is very difficult to tame him. The eagle needs intensive training from an early age to subdue it. One of the hunters, Bikbolat, said about the matter,

“Eagle cubs are the best for domestication. When they grow up, they become very difficult to domesticate. From an early age, they are trained to become skilled hunters. When they do, they no longer attack domesticated sheep and human cubs. But the reality is that older eagles are better as predators. Older trained eagles become so strong that they can prey on fast-moving animals such as foxes and wolves. “

Female eagles are more effective at hunting than male eagles. Not only are the female eagles aggressive, but they are also three times more adept at following the master’s instructions and defeating their opponents than the male eagles.

Once an eagle is trained, it can help hunt for many years. The hunters take them out on horseback to hunt. At this time the hunting eagle is placed on the right shoulder of the owner. It is quite exciting when an experienced eagle and a veteran master go out on an expedition together. Whenever an eagle finds prey or smells its prey, it claws its owner’s neck with its claws; That is, he gives the hunter the prey. Munib immediately ran towards that.

Some Kazakh hunters still use Mandhata-era Russian guns for prey, with which they can prey mainly on small rabbits. But most hunters are looking for bigger prey. Especially those who have intelligent and trained hunting eagles do not pay much attention to small prey.


It is worth mentioning that experienced eagles are at least eight times more prudent in hunting than their masters. Through these predatory eagles, masters mainly prey on corsac foxes and marmots. The bodies of these animals are covered with fur, which is essential for the livelihood of the Kazakhs. As a result, they can collect fur and meat at the same time. That is, the arrangement of clothes and food is done at once. However, strong eagles sometimes prey on owls and leopards on ice.

Winter is the best time to hunt. Because at this time the hunting eagles became the most violent and hungry. But at other times of the year, too, these eagles are busy with small prey.

Every year in September, a large ‘Eagle Hunting Festival’ is held in Oleg, the provincial capital of the region. Cash prizes are given among the winners of the competition at this festival. During this time men participate in various sports to prove their skills, such as Kokbar. Two men participate in this game. They compete on horseback to pull sheep or fox skins (see the first video below). Another game is called Tenz Potato. Competitors participating in this game have to collect tokens placed on the ground while on horseback. In that case, they will not be able to stop their horse or get off the horse themselves.

Although the overall atmosphere of the festival and most of the competitions are centered around men, women can show off their skills in some sports, such as kaya Ku, where a woman and a man compete in horse racing. If a man can cross a certain boundary before the competition, he will kiss a woman on the cheek, and if a woman can cross a certain boundary before him, he will have a chance to hit the man with a whip, which is a source of great joy to the spectators in the open field.

But the fear is that these traditions may soon become extinct. This barren habitat of the indigenous people is also rapidly falling into the hands of the occupiers. Moreover, the number of hunting wild animals is decreasing day by day. At the same time, the influx of tourists is endangering the lives of wildlife. Meanwhile, as hunting management continues to deteriorate, Kazakh tribal families are sending their children to the city most of the time in search of a livelihood. As the saying goes,

The money earned from hunting no longer makes it possible for them to make a living, so families are looking for alternatives.

Yet hunters are still able to make their clothing, hats, and other essentials, which are needed for the winter festivities, from wildlife fur and leather. The hunting eagles are also being reared by their masters with due respect. Traditionally, they have always released their pet eagles completely after 10 years. Then these eagles go back to the forest.

Most importantly, the process of training Barkutsi or baby eagles is a historic challenge for Kazakh youth. Because they get this education through their father. That is to say, they think that the father’s merits and demerits are revealed in the son. Babolat said in this regard,

This hunting eagle is inherited from its 12th ancestor, which is a source of immense pride for their family.

Although the reality is different, the Kazakh tribes want to retain their tradition. That is why Bikbolat reminds them of a proverb that encourages them to live with wild animals in this barren land. The speech is,

Speeding horses and ferocious eagles are the main sources of energy for the Kazakh people.

But the practice of this tradition is constantly declining. As a result, this 6,000-year-old heritage is under threat of extinction. As mentioned earlier, at present only 250 eagle hunters survive in the Altai region. The rest are constantly moving to other professions or other areas. The eagle on Bikbolat’s shoulder was looking at his master’s eyes again and again with Maya-filled eyes.


How do Mongolians train eagles?

Once trained, a task that can take up to several years, the eagle goes out with the hunter on horseback, riding on his left arm.

Do Mongolians use eagles to hunt?

For 6000 years, people in western Mongolia have used eagles to hunt small mammals.

Which eagle is the best hunter?

Golden Eagle.

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