In the far northwest corner of Mongolia, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) across Russian and Chinese mountains from Kazakhstan, there is a community of 87,000 people that still live by the traditions of their ancestors. The Kazakh eagle hunters that inhabit these lands are descendants of Huns, and Turkic, Mongolic and Indo-Iranian indigenous groups who lived in this area. Their way of life and the landscape they wander through are fascinating.
When so much of the world is dominated by technology and construction, it is exciting to come across a part of the world that is relatively untouched. The landscape stretches on for seemingly endless distances with stunning layers of light, texture, and hues of reds, blacks, browns, and whites.
While the semi-nomadic Kazakhs used to travel between Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and and the province of Xinjiang in China, they mostly stay in the province of Bayan-Ölgii, Mongolia since the invention of modern borders. They live in traditional yurt tents, carry on stories through the tradition of oral history and rely on domestic animals for their livelihood.
It is often said that “a Kazakh without a horse is like a bird without wings.” Indeed, Mongolian horses are used, along with trained golden eagles, to help the Kazakh hunt. The training of golden eagles is passed from generation to generation and marks the right of passage from boyhood to manhood. In Mid-October, there is a colorful annual Golden Eagle Festival to mark the start of hunting season.
These eagle hunters are also known for their distinct clothing of boots, black jackets and fox fur hats called “loovuuz.” Fur, including that from marmots, rabbits, and wolves, is an important part of Kazakh clothing.
To see more pictures of this Mongolian semi-nomadic group, visit Google Arts and Culture to wander through the “Kazakh Eagle Hunters: A visual homage to the indigenous Kazakh eagle hunters in Mongolia by Jimmy Nelson” project.