The Golden Eagle Festival

Mongolia, Altai Mountains, Bayan-Ulgii, Oct 2015

It’s the largest gathering of eagle hunters ( Burkitshi as they are named in Kazakhstan) and their eagles in the world since it started in 1999 with over 70 eagle hunters participating. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Event. The festival starts with display of eagles and hunters, and then goes into the events of eagles displaying their talents. The first event is the eagle catching fox skin dragged behind a horse, returning to their owner from a distance on command, as well as a camel race and Kazakh games of Tiyn Teru (a race to pick up a coin on the ground while on horseback), Kyz Kuar (“girl chase,” a man and woman race on horseback while the woman whips the man), and Kokpar (tug of war over a goat carcass while on horseback). Mongolian hunters capture only female eagles from their nest that they probably would not survive. This was explained by Bazarbai, an hunter loving his two year old eagle he named Ternik They keep them in their Yurts for 2 years, at the end of which the training begins. The hunting period lasts until reaching the 10th year. Then they are released.