The Tsaatans are a small Tuvan Turkish reindeer herders community living in Mongolia’s northern Khövsgöl Aimag. The Tsaatans were originally Tuvinian reindeer herders. Their name Tsaatan means ” people who have reindeer” in the Mongolian language. They speak the Dukhan language which is an endangered language spoken by approximately 500 people.
Tsaatan Peoples life differs from other people around the world. Their daily life is revolved around reindeer. The Tsaatan people and reindeer lives are dependent on each other. They domesticate the reindeer and in many ways, they are treated as a family member. Their daily chores are tied with taking care of the reindeer. They raise their reindeer primarily for their milk and they make a variety of milk products such as cheese, yogurt. Only a few are slaughtered for meat during the year.
Reindeer or Rangifer tarandus Linnaeus, 1758 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 to 140 centimeters and its weight is between 100-300 kilograms. In the summer reindeer eats greens and mushroom and during the winter they grazes 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 very welcoming. If you visit them they will offer you a traditional delicacy to taste, and you can witness their unique lifestyle. You can spend the night in the guests urts. They carve beautiful design on the reindeer horn and make various souvenirs.