The Tsaatans are a small Tuvan reindeer herders community living in northern corner of Mongolia. The name Tsaatan means “people who have reindeer” in the Mongolian language. They speak the Dukhan language which is endangered only spoken among the reindeer herders.
Tsaatan’s lifestyle differs from other people around the world. Their daily chores are tied with taking care of the reindeer. The Tsaatan people and reindeer lives are dependent on each other. They domesticate the reindeer and in many ways, reindeer are treated as a family member. They raise reindeer primarily for milk, and variety of milk products are made out of reindeer milk. Only a few are slaughtered for meat during the year.
Being on of the minor ethnic groups in Mongolia, Tsaatan people are known for their religious practice, Shamanism. Some say, the best shaman can be found among Tsaatan. Today, over 200 Tsaatan nomads live in Mongolia. However, 400 people were registered as Tsaatan, most of them gave up their though lifestyle, and became resident in the nearest village.
Reindeer or Rangifer tarandus Linnaeus is considered as an endangered species in Mongolia. In 1994, it counted as around only 400, but during the years its number has reached to 2159. It is body length ranges from 180-220 centimeters, its height reaches 140 centimeters and its weight is between 100-300 kilograms. In the summer reindeer eat greens and mushroom and during the winter they graze through birch and cedar forests.
Tsaatan People live in urts. Urts is a nomadic dwelling that looks similar to a Native American tipi. Some urts can be 10 meters (30 feet) in diameter. Traditional urts is made out of wooden poles organized in a circle, and it is wrapped around a sewn together reindeer hide. In the middle of the urts, there is a fireplace used for heating and cooking. The smoke escapes through the hole on top of the urts.
Tsaatan People are truly welcoming and proud to show their unique tradition and lifestyle. Witnessing their culture can be once in a lifetime experience that not everyone who wants can have. You will be treated with traditional delicacy and accommodate in guest’s Urts next to the headman of the community.