Eagle Festival

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10-07-2007 This is the fourth year for the Eagle Festival in the town of Sagsai, a 30km, half hour's drive from Olgii. It is a two day event, the first day concentrating on various events which test the hunters and their eagles. In one event the hunter leaves his eagle on a nearby hill and rides his horse down to the flat and then calls his eagle. When properly executed the eagle swoops down and lands on the hunters forearm. another event has the eagles catching a fox skin dragged behing the hunter's horse.

"Eagle hunting is a Kazak tradition dating back 2,000 years. Marc Polo mentioned it in this travels. Female eagles are almost always used as they are one third heavier than the males and far more aggressive. Young birds around two years old are caught in nearby valleys, fattened up and then broken by being tied to a wooden block so that thye fall when they try to fly away.
After two days they are exhausted and ready for training, which involves being kept on a pole called a tugir, and catching small animal skins or lures called shinga. The eagles are trained to hunt marmots, small foxes and wolves (eagles have vision eight times more acute than humans), and release them to the hunter, who clubs the prey to death. Part of the meat is given to the eagles as a reward.

Tools of the trade include tomaga (hood), bialai (gloves) and khundag (blanket) to keep the bird warm. If well trained, a bird can live and hunt for about thirty years. Most hunters train several birds during their lifetimes and release their birds into the wild after eight years." From Lonely Planet, Mongolia.

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