Magnificent Mongolia

The Eagle Festival/ Falconry

Updated: Feb 2, 2020

Hmm, using eagles for hunting? Where in the world would people do such thing?

The answer could be found in Mongolia.

Falconry was practiced Mongolia at a very remote period and was already in high favor some 1000 years BC, that’s 3000 years ago. It achieved a very high level of refinement on the military campaigns of the Great Khans who practiced falconry for food and for sport between battles. One such military expedition reached almost to the gates of Vienna. By the time of Marco Polo there were over 60 officials managing over 5000 trappers and more than 10000 falconers and falconry workers.

In the modern times, the west Mongolian Kazakhs are well known for its unique on-going falconry tradition. They domesticate eagles and train them for hunting foxes or hares.

With the purpose to inherit the falconry culture to the next generation, the National Eagle Hunter's Association started celebrating the eagle festival annually in the first of October, in Ulgii town, Bayan-Ulgii province.

A mountainous terrain in the southeast of Ulgii forms the backdrop to the festivities which incorporate opening ceremony, parade of eagle hunters, cultural exhibitions, demonstrations of hand-made crafts, horse racing, and archery . Then the festival proceeds to the core competitions which is to test the accuracy, adaptation and agility of the eagles. For instance, challenging eagles to catch a stuffed animal or locating their owners from a distance etc.

A tug of war like competition called "Tulam bulaah" or "Bushkashi" is one of the most entertaining competitions of the festival. It is an act of several men on horses fighting over to grab a goatskin.

The following awards are given at to the winners at the end of the festival: Best Turned Out Eagle and Owner; Best Eagle at Hunting Prey and Best Eagle at Locating Its Owner from a Distance.

The eagle festival of 2016 was noted as the most historic as the 13 year old girl ,Aisholpan became the first female participant and went onto win the competition. This story was filmed in a documentary called "The Eagle Huntress".

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