kazakh Eagle Hunters
WHAT IS THEIR PHILOSOPHY OF LIfE
"FINE HOSES AND STrONG EAGLES BRING WINGS OF POWER"
Hunting with eagles is an ancient tradition practiced by various ethnic nomadic groups from Kazakh and Kyrgyz origin. They used to inhabit vast territories across Eurasian steppe. Nevertheless, today there are less than 70 families left who still follow the tradition of their ancestors.
WHERE kazakh eagle hunters LIVE
The Altai Mountain near Bayan- Oelggi, Mongolia is the last territory occupied by the Kazakh Eagle Hunter.
A HUNTER STORY OF A NOMAD TRIBE
Golden eagles are superior predators and rule the world of Altai Mountains in altitude above 3500m. Usually their nests are built 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 reaches a wingspan of up to 2.3m and weight of 7 to 8kg. When adult golden eagles spot potential prey, they keep it in focus and nothing can stay in their way. Most often rabbits, foxes, wild goats and occasionally wolfs fall casualty of their hunger. Their impressive killing skill is what fascinates Kazakh Eagle Hunters.
Horses are the source of life for the Kazakhs and all Mongols. They are born, live and die on them.
Living in Altai Mountain is very harsh, especially if people want to do it as per their ancestors’ tradition. Food supply is limited, temperatures are extreme and 1.5m+ snow covers everything. There isn’t big forest and all slopes and valleys are completely open. It is very hard to close the distance to any animal without been spotted from huge distance. This is why skillful golden eagles are extremely valuable. Every experienced Kazakh knows that growing a bird in captivity, will dull its killer instinct. It is impossible to teach that. Hence, 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. 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 below -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 mountain on the back of their horses and carry golden eagles on their forearms. From there hunters try to spot a potential prey in a radius of up to 500m.
Once the hunter notices any movement of an animal, the cap covering the eagle’s eyes is removed. Then he gives a sound command to take off.
In the low-land 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.