The Golden Eagle Festival is an annual celebration of the ancient tradition of eagle hunting in Mongolia, and it takes place in the Western Mongolian province of Bayan-Ölgii. There are a few different festivals and the largest one is held during the first weekend of October.
During the festival, eagle hunters from across Mongolia gather to compete in a series of events that showcase the skill and bravery of the hunters and their eagles.
The events include:
- Parade: Eagle hunters, dressed in their traditional Kazakh clothing, parade with their eagles on horseback. The attire typically includes elaborate hats, coats, and accessories that showcase the cultural identity of the eagle hunters.
- Eagle calling on arm competition: In this event, the eagle hunters demonstrate their ability to communicate with their eagles. The hunters use hand signals and vocal commands to direct the eagles to fly, and land on his/her arm.
- Eagle calling on “shirga” competition: In this event, the hunters and their eagles are judged on their speed, agility, and accuracy in catching a lure called “shirga”. The hunters ride on horseback, and the eagles are released from a nearby hilltop to catch a fox fur dragged by the horseman. The fastest and most skilled eagles are awarded prizes.
- Kokpar: While Tug of War isn’t specifically associated with the Kazakh people, they have various traditional games reflecting their rich cultural heritage. One such game is “Kokpar,” similar to Tug of War. In Kokpar, a goat carcass is used as the ball, beheaded, and prepared for the game. It’s physically demanding, with riders engaging in a tug of war on horseback for control of the goat carcass. The game has its own rules, demanding strength, horsemanship, and strategic thinking. Beyond being just a game, Kokpar reflects the nomadic way of life, showcasing skills essential for survival in the harsh Central Asian steppes, like riding and wrestling.
- Tenge Ilu: A competition between horsemen where they need to pick up a given object from the ground while their horse is at full speed.
- Kiz Kuar: This game unfolds as a humorous spectacle, featuring a young woman in pursuit of a young man on horseback. Armed with a horsewhip, she playfully seeks retribution for the perceived offense of a stolen kiss.
- Cultural Performances: The festival also features cultural performances, including traditional music, dance, and storytelling, that celebrate the history and heritage of the Mongolian people.
The Golden Eagle Festival is a unique and fascinating event, offering visitors a chance to witness one of Mongolia’s oldest traditions. Furthermore, it showcases the incredible bond between eagle hunters and their birds of prey, creating a captivating spectacle. Additionally, it provides a glimpse into the vibrant culture of Mongolia, allowing attendees to immerse themselves in the rich heritage and traditions of this amazing country.
If you wish to see the Kazakh tribe and eagle hunters, here is our recommended tour.