kazakh Eagle Hunters
WHAT IS THEIR PHILOSOPHY OF LIfE
"FINE HOSES AND STrONG EAGLES BRING WINGS OF POWER. RESPECT THE NATURE AND KILL ONLY TO SURVIVE."
Hunting with eagles is a traditional form of falconry practiced by Kazakh and Kyrgyz people who occupy various territories across Eurasian steppe. Today the Altai Mountain region near Bayan-Ölgii, Mongolia is most known for its golden eagle hunters. There are less than 70 families left who still follow the tradition of their ancestors.
WHERE kazakh eagle hunters LIVE
A HUNTER STORY OF A NOMAD TRIBE
Golden eagles live in the Altain Mountain. They pick the location of their nest to be on inaccessible cliffs. It must be high above the ground to protect their offspring as well as to have a great view over the nearby valley. Once matured, each bird can reach a wingspan of up to 2.3m and weight of about 7 to 8kg. They are killing machines with amazing capabilities. When golden eagles spot a potential target, nothing can stay in their way. Most often rabbits, foxes and even wolfs fall casualty of their hunger. This is why golden eagles are valued by the Kazakhs.
Horses are the source of life for the Kazakhs and all Mongols. They are born, live and die on them.
In Altai Mountain to be a successful hunter requires among other things as well as a skillful golden eagle. Every experienced Kazakh knows that growing a bird in captivity, will dull its killer instinct. It is impossible to teach that. This is why the Kazakhs try to capture a fully grown up golden eagle alive. A task much more challenging than it sounds. There are plenty of stories about people being severely injured or even killed in their attempt. But the reward is enormous. Once captured, the bird needs to be trained to follow hunter’s orders. Patience and persistence are great virtues each hunter must poses.
Each September Kazkah Eagle Hunters gather to celebrate the end of the summer as well as to organize a group chase for rabbits, foxes and wolves. This is not for fun, but rather out of necessity. It helps them catch just the right quantity of animals. Then their women use the fur to make winter clothes that help the tribe survive in the harsh weather condition where temperatures often drop bellow -35C (-31F).
Stay mobile, to survive and conquer
As a semi-nomadic tribe, Kazakh Eagle Hunters live scattered around the region of Altai Mountain. A legacy left by Genghis Khan. Since that period the “gerr” is widely used and very little has been changed in its design. The ten-alike-looking home is very portable. It keeps the warmth inside and it is spacious enough for about 10 people. Its structure is strengthened by latticework of bamboo or wood that makes the "gerr" storm-proved. The inner sides of the walls are isolated with camel wool and only a small wooden door gives access to the heart of the "gerr". There is also a compact hole in the roof that can be open and closed with ease. It is used as fire smoke escape or quick air ventilation, when needed.
Kazakh Eagle Hunters learn from early age the art of hunting.
Once arrived, several clans' leaders gather to decide the strategy for the hunt.
In general, few hunters climb a steep mountain on the back of their horses and they carry their golden eagles. From there they try to spot a potential prey in a radius of up to 500m.
Once an eagle focuses the prey, the hunter removes the cap that covers the bird's eyes and gives a sound command to take off.
In the lowland a second group of hunters gallops after the eagles catches the prey...
Their main task is to remove the eagles from the rabbits or foxes as soon as possible in order to protect the precious fur.
The eagle receives the entrails of the prey as a reward...
...while the rabbit lands on the back of the hunter's horse.
At the break of the night, Kazakh Eagle Hunters gather in their "gerrs" where elders share legends about Genghis Khan and his adventures around the world and the stories of life and death.