Eagle festival

For last 12 years Bayan -Olgii Kazakhs held in early October the Eagle Hunting Festival, a colorful and picturesque event attracting the best hunters and birds, and an important celebration for the local community. The festival begins with each hunter displaying the hunting outfits and elaborate, beautifully adorned accessories. Later, the hunting eagles are evaluated for their skills.

The eagles are released from a rock cliff, while their owners stand below and signal for them to land upon their arms, as they do during hunting. Those with the fastest times and best technique are awarded the highest scores. In addition to the eagle hunting contests, the participants play such traditional Kazakh games known as kekbar. Two teams compete to pass a goat skin over to their side of the field and the winner throws the skin onto the gher of his choice and this family is expected to host a party for everyone.  The events ends in grand dostarkhan, or a party at which the winners are toasted and great hunting tales are shared.
This event represents the very essence of the culture of nomadic Kazakhs and if you like to have once-in-life experience.

For hunting purpose Kazakhs catch and train Golden Eagles, mighty birds of prey common throughout the Central Asia. These huge birds weight up to 6.5 kilograms with wingspan of seven or eight feet. The talons or claws on an eagle's toes are curved and razor-sharp for catching and holding their prey. This gave eagles the name raptor which comes from a Latin word "rapere" meaning to grip or grasp.

Eagles are "birds of prey," which means they hunt for their food. Unlike other birds, which eat seeds or insects flying short distance, eagles fly great distances in order to find game. Therefore eagles mastered the skill of soaring. They ride the warm flows of air and can speed up to twenty miles per hour almost without effort. The eagle's eyesight is especially remarkable. With vision about eight times sharper than human, they can spot a fox or rabbit up to a mile away.
Usually Kazakh hunters go for female birds as they one third heavier than males and much more aggressive. Eagles can live up to 50 years but most hunters keep the birds for about 10 years and then release them back into the wild. Hunters choose either to snatch a young, few months old chick from nest at mountain tops or lure a young birds with pigeons and trap them.


"Eagle chicks are more time as they used to humans and do not attack children or sheep. While grownups are more aggressive and better hunters," says Sembai, well known hunter from Nogoon Nuur soum. In early summer hunters go to mountains to find eagle nests and snatch a young chick. To catch elder birds hunters lay out a net baited with fresh meat and wait for the bird to come feed and entangle itself.


Young birds are kept for about a month or two during which they are fed with washed out meat from master hands and become used to the presence of humans. In late summer they are 'broken' by being tied to a wooden block so that they fall when they try to fly away. During this time they are not given food. After few days they become exhausted and ready for training.

They are sat on a pole called a tugir and one of young men pulls a lure made of small animal skins in front of the bird. When she attacks the lure called shirga, they are given some meat as reward. The eagles are trained to hunt marmots, rabbits and small foxes. The hunters eventually train the eagle to hunt down foxes, even wolves.

 
 
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