Mongolian Kazakhs’ Hunting Festival – “Berkutchi”

In the Bayan-Olgii district of Western Mongolia, the home of Mongolian Kazakhs, annual festive celebrations are under way: the face-off between “Kokhbar” riders, horse races and the main spectacle – the battle between Berkutchi hunters.

In the Bayan-Olgii district of Western Mongolia, the home of Mongolian Kazakhs, annual festive celebrations are under way: the face-off between “Kokhbar” riders, horse races and the main spectacle – the battle between Berkutchi hunters

Hunting with specially trained eagles is one of the most spectacular and ancient traditions of the Mongolian Kazakhs, handed down from one generation to the next

Hunting with the golden eagle or berkut is one of the most unique aspects of Kazakh life. The hunter is called a “berkutchi”. The skills of training the wild birds are passed down from one generation of Kazakh hunter to the next over centuries and are kept secret. There are no more than one thousand berkutchi on our planet. Around half of them live in Mongolia

Training the eagle is a high art. The captured bird eventually gets used to the owner. In order to do this, the hunter oftentimes stays awake many-a-night, making sure that his eagle is sleeping tightly
The bird must only receive food from the hands of its owner. After the eagle gets used to his owner, his horse and his dog, the berkutchi starts teaching it how to hunt

A specially-trained eagle can hunt for small animals: hares, foxes, quail
Guests from Japan, Hungary, France, Germany, Kazakhstan and Russia are invited to the annual Berkutchi festival
The festival’s participants take national costumes and other colourful attributes very seriously. The Kazakhs sincerely and lovingly preserve their ancestors’ heritage
The festival program includes contests for equipping the eagle, bait hunting, as well as live fox, hare and wolf hunting
There is special equipment for hunting with birds, without which grappling with a 6-7 kg bird would be no easy task!

An ethnic Kazakh celebrates after winning a prize with his golden eagle in the far west of Mongolia at the annual Eagle Festival in Bayan Oelgiy, Mongolia, 02 October 2010
Mongolian Kazakhs believe that for as long as the Berkutchi traditions are alive and young people want to preserve and propagate the heritage of their ancestors, their nation has a future





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