Nomads in Central Asian steppe have been practiced and hunting with raptor birds since ancient times. Particularly, there was a custom Kazakhs in Mongolia commonly use eagles when they go for hunting. Modern time, the custom of hunting with eagle is the main factor that promotes events and festivals in tourism field, bringing and attracting a lot of foreign and domestic tourists. Eagle hunting was officially registered as a UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage on December 21, 2009.
Traditionally, Mongolians train Golden eagle for hunting. Female juvenile eagle that is able to fly is usually chosen as an eagle hunter because the female eagle is stronger and bigger than male. Most of the eagles are used as a hunter when they are at age of 1-4 also they attacks the animals they can defeat. After few years hunting, Kazakhs intentionally let the eagles back to the wild because they are conscious people knowing that it is vital to keep the natural balance. The Golden eagle lives for 30-50 years.
The fact that the first people hunting with raptor birds were graved on the stones and monuments related to Turkic period. When William Rubruck, an explorer of France, came in Mongolian (1253-1255), he mentioned on his account that I saw the eagles sitting on the right arm of nomads and worn an eye strap.
If the eagles are too fat or too skinny, they cannot hunt because of their body. If hunters get the eagles too hungry, they become raging. The hunt season starts when it snows in fall. Hunting crew consists of people, whose role is a tracing, startling and chasing. The Golden eagle possesses incredibly great eyesight that scans foxes, rodents, rabbits, corsac foxes at a height of 500-1000 meters.
The eagle’s first prey is given to the elder of the tribe. Then, the elder tell eagle and hunter his own words and wish them a good fortune in the future. If the eagle is accidentally passed away, a hunter of the eagle bury the eagle on the nearly summit of mountain where the eagle was born.
Golden eagle festival has been annually held since 1999, making the festival one of the eldest festivals in Mongolia and it takes place at the beginning of October in Bayan-Ulgii province, westernmost part of Mongolia. The festival starts with opening parade with well-dressed hunters. Local Kazakhs show their unique eagle hunting culture during the festival. In addition, some cultural events and small competitions are organized including riding on horseback, archery competition, selecting the most exceptional traditional costume, the best trained eagle.
The Golden eagle festival-2019 is held on 5th-6th of October. Every year, 6.000-7.000 thousand of tourists visit Bayan-Ulgii province to see the festival meanwhile wondering snowcapped mountains of Altai Tavan Bogd. Out of total population of the Bayan-Ulgii province is 120.000, 400 of them are eagle hunters.