Eagle Hunting Festivals in mongolia
In Mongolia we have 2 times of the Eagle Festival annually: Spring Eagle festival and Automn Eagle Festival. Spring Festival is held between 4-5,March annually at Chinggisiin Khuree tourist camp, which is located just in 30 km west of Ulaanbaatar city. Automn Eagle Festival is held in first week of October at Sagsai village of Bayan-Ulgii province in wester of Mongolia, which is located in the west of 1800 km far from Ulaanbaatar city.
Eagle Festival Introduction
One of spectacular customs of Kazakh ethnic group is hunting with specially trained eagles. Kazakhs of 10 thousand people refugeed to Mongolian territory by 1860-s because of war in Russia, so Mongolian government allowed them to get rid of from war damage. So in present time we have 100 thousand kazakh ethnic groups habiting in western part of Mongolia. Kazakh ethnic group's and as well as Arabian and Persian culture, which is connected with birds and bird hunting, is eaglery and eagle culture. But Mongolian ethnic group's bird culture is Falconry. Eagle Culture is spread in all over more than 15 countries in Central asia and middle Asia. In Arabian and Persian countries the eagle is cared and fed as a pet in rich people house. But in Mongolia, Kazakhstan and in Kirgisztan the eagle culture is enriched with Eagle Hunting Ability and hunting culture.
In 936-45 AD the Khitans, a nomadic people from east of Mongolia, conquered part of north China. Since that time Chinese people got introduced with eagle culture and Chinese history books mentioned about north ethnics- mongols’ culture to use eagle, falcon and goshawk for hunting and posting. Archaeologists trace back falconry in Central Asia to the first or second millennium BC.
Today there are an estimated 150 eagle hunters in Bayan-Ölgii, which is located in the Altai Mountains in western Mongolia. Their bird custom involves hunting with golden eagles on horseback, and they primarily hunt red foxes and corsac foxes. They love to be dressed in fox’s nice yellow colored soft fur costumes. They use eagles to hunt foxes and hares during the cold winter months when it is easier to see the gold colored foxes against the snow. Although the Kazakh government has made efforts to lure the practitioners of these Kazakh traditions back to Kazakhstan, most Kazakhs have remained in Mongolia.
Spring Eagle Festival
The March Eagle Festival is held at Chinggisiin Khuree camp, just very close with half hour drive outside of Ulaanbaatar. At the begining of March it is mainly snowy covering all around Ulaanbaatar area and the temperature is app. -5-0C in day time with sunshine. The snow and sunshine and eagle hunters looks very contrasty and best timing for the photographers and the photo hunters. Eagle Hunting assocoation tries to advertise this eagle hunting culture to Mongolians and city people, so they organise this event near by Ulaanbaatar area. The Kazakh hunters send their horses on tracks and the truck traveled in 4-7 days in one way of 1800 km. Some Kazakh hunters just use mongolian herdsmen's horses instead of bringing their horses from Bayan-Ulgii province. The Kazakh hunters bring their eagles to city and present the ability of hunters to city young people and tourists, who want to see much things of Mongolia: ice festival between 2-4, eagle festival 4-5,march and then camel festival between 6-8,March in south part of Mongolia. Approximately, 20-25 eagle hunters travel from west to Ulaanbaatar and they participate in this spring festival.
The main festival is organised in 2 days and western Kazakh hunters travel from Bayan-Ulgii province to Ulaanbaatar with their horses and eagles. The main event includes following parts: archery shooting show from western part of Mongolia and central part of Mongolia, Hunter's ability to call their birds (each eagle should know who is their owner and his owner is calling him now or not, what kind of command he has given to him), eagle hunting for the fox (the real live fox is not able to be used during the show, so the red fox fur is drawn by horserider and eagle should hunt -catch it), then game of goat skin snatching competition. The event is held near by big city, so during the event some of Mongolian horse riders and movie groups cavalries and mongolian archers show is presented to decorate and enrich the show event. So this are the interesting and nice models for photography picturing tourists. The Spring eagle hunting festival is the best ideal photo trip with Asian culture- Bird culture.
Automn Eagle Hunting festival in Bayan-Ulgii province
The festival displays the pride of Kazakh best hunters and their skill as hunters with eagle. It is held in local area, so many of the eagle hunters of 45-50 participate in this festival. Even not only adults, but also young teenage boys and girls, who has real hobby to enjoy with the eagle, they can participate in this automn festival. In last 2 years 2 girls and 3 boys are becoming more popular with eagle training and eagle hunting, so the young generation is keeping the ancestors' ancient culture. At the begining of the October, the snow did not fall in Altai Mt-s, but the temperature is falling down and getting chilly is good for the golden eagles. They feel very eager and happier in cool temperature and ready to start hunting and hunting training.
The aotumn eagle festival's program is very similar to spring festival's program. You can see the sample of the program below:
Day 1- Eagle Festival day
Breakfast, Drive to Sagsai village -40 km,
10:00 Opening ceremony, introductions, Eagle Hunting history and practice
11:00 Competition event #1, Traditional Dress Hunters display their home made
12:00 Camel Race, then Have Lunch
1:30 Multiple events – Western Mongolian archery /Anklebones, archery competition , Cultural lecture – History of the Kazakhs/
2:00 Competition event #2, Eagle Call Tests hunter’s ability to ‘call’ Eagle to their horse from a distance
6:00 Break for dinner , Stay in the hotel in Olgii town
Day 2-Eagle festival day
10:00 Kazakh Horse Games /Bushkashi - Tug of war played on horseback with goat skin, common throughout Central Asia, Kyz Kuar - A race between a man and woman on horseback, Tiyn Teru - Riders compete to pick up coins from the ground during the race/
12:00 Horse Race, Then Have Lunch
2:30 Competition event #3, Fox Skin The real test of a hunter’s ability, Eagles must catch a fox skin dragged behind their trainer’s horse.
4:00 Afternoon break
6:00 Closing dinner, awards, Stay in the hotel in Olgii town
After the festival, you can visit to local eagle hunters' real ger- yurt in Altai Mts. Here you will have a real chance and witness how they save the eagle, how they train eagles, how they feed eagles, how they make hunted animals fur costumes and how they feel with their eagle. Ger yurt is much bigger then Mongolian normal gers and more decorated with traditional hand sewing ornaments. After the visit to hunter's ger, you can have an another chance to discover picturesques glacier, high rocky mountains and beautiful lakes and ancient rock paintings in Altai Mountains.
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