Friday, March 7, 2014

Kazakh Eagle Festival – Ulaanbaatar

A group of us senior missionaries chose to go to a Kazakh Eagle Hunting Festival for an outing.  

From left to right: the Stewarts, Elder Gardner, Sister Stewart, the Nays, and ourselves
It was a bright sunny day with relatively mild temperatures.
The Ger camp that hosted the Eagle Hunting Festival
The setting was a pristine snow-covered valley at a tourist ger camp.  
The eagle hunters are on a central knoll with one eagle hunter waiting on his horse at the 100 meter mark

We had a tour guide, Jangar, and Zorgeo ferried us in his Russian van.
Jangar, Zorgeo and our Russian van
Dr. Stewart and I shared pictures. His stunning pictures will show an "S" in the caption. For a time I had my camera on a setting that whited out the background. That is why you see some photos that look like paintings. 

For the past three years, the tourism ministry has been sponsoring a Kazakh Eagle Hunters Festival in early March near Ulaanbaatar. This is a more tourist friendly location than the main Eagle Festival held in early October in Bayan Ulgii, the capital city of a Kazakh province in western Mongolia.
Eagle Hunters. There are 500 Kazakh eagle hunters in Mongolia and 100 in Kazakhstan. About 20 Kazakh eagle hunters came from western Mongolia with their horses and eagles.


The Kazakhs are not strangers to technology - "S"
 A Kazakh matriarch came to preside over the event.

A Kazakh matriarch and her son - "S"
Eagle Hunters capture the birds in their nest and start training them immediately. Their main prowess as reliable hunting birds is when they are between 2 and 8 years old.
The day's events. The festival had a opening parade and a judged competition for the best Kazakh hunting outfits.

A Kazakh flag
There were Kazakh handicrafts for sale, a museum inside the King’s Ger, and a display on conservation of birds of prey.
Learning about birds of prey in Mongolia
Display inside the King's Ger
Mongolian warriors representing Chinggis Khan’s 13th century army put on an archery display and did a lot of posing with their falcons for the visitors.

The warriors had falcons on their arms - "S"


The targets - "S"

The stars of the show.

All of the eagle photos are Dr. Stewarts

Not every landing goes well
Competition. During the day there were several competitions. One competition was a timed event where eagles fly to their owner’s arms at distances of one hundred meters or two hundred meters down a hillside.
There is meat in his hand and he calls his bird - "S"
Another was a timed event where eagles pouncing on a moving fox skin drug by their owners on a horse.
 There was a timed competition involving riders successfully picking up three cloth money bags spaced on the ground at 20 foot intervals.



Finally there was a tug-of-war for a goat hide between two contestants mounted on horses. The winners faced each other in a playoff until there was one overall winner.

The horses spun in circles as the riders maneuvered better grips or more power. There was a lot of skill on display as each rider tried their techniques for winning.

A Kazakh version of an end zone dance after scoring the winning touchdown -"S"
It was wild gladiator-style entertainment with the unexpected happening.   
The unexpected was his "over the top" victory celebration draped all over his horse -"S"
We loved our day at the Kazakh Eagle Festival.  You can see why.

King and Queen for a day

All Sister England needs is an eagle on her arm - "S"


  1. Those are amazing pictures!

  2. If I was a person in another country and saw THAT coming at me I would surrender, too! NO WONDER the Golden Horde existed for so long. What beautiful and stunning HUMAN-ship that is. WOW. just WOW.

  3. Holy cow! Love the victory photo - that man is pretty comfortable on his horse to be able to manage that!

  4. Some of those photos look like paintings, I had to zoom all the way in to make sure. Beautiful.