Hunting with eagles
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Hunting with eagles is a traditional form of falconry found throughout the Eurasian steppe, practiced by Kazakh and Kyrgyz people in contemporary Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as diasporas in Bayan-Ölgii, Mongolia, and Xinjiang, China. Though these Turkic people are most famous for hunting with golden eagles, they have been known to train northern goshawks, peregrine falcons, saker falcons, and more.
In Kazakh, there are two general terms for people who capture, train, and hunt with various birds of prey: "qusbegi" and "sayatshy". Qusbegi comes from the words "qus", meaning "bird", and "bek", meaning "lord", the title thus literally translating as "lord of birds." In Old Turkic, "kush begi" was a title used for the khan's most respected advisors, reflecting the valued role of a ruler's court falconer. "Sayat" is a noun used to describe falconry in general, and the word for "falconer" is formed by adding the ending -shy, a suffix used for professional titles in Turkic languages. Similarly, the Kazakh word for golden eagle is "bürkit", and the word for "hunter with eagles" is bürtkitshi. By analogy, the word for "hunter with goshawks" is qarshyghashy, from the word for goshawk, qarshygha.
In Kyrgyz, the general word for people who capture, train, and hunt with various birds of prey is "münüshkör". A falconer who specifically hunts with eagles is a "bürkütchü", from the Kyrgyz word for golden eagle, "bürküt".
In 936-45 AD the Khitans, a nomadic people from Manchuria, conquered part of north China. In 960 AD China was conquered by the Song dynasty. From its beginnings, the Song dynasty was unable to completely control the Khitan who had already assimilated much of Chinese culture. Throughout its 300-year rule of China, the Song had to pay tribute to the Khitan to keep them from conquering additional Song territory. Despite the fact that the Khitans assimilated Chinese culture, they retained many nomadic traditions, including eagle hunting (see the unknown Chinese painting from Song dynasty).
The hai dong qing was an important breed of hunting eagle for Jurchen tribes. The Khitan extorted this kind of eagle from Jurchen but ended in revolt.
In 1207, the Kyrgyz nomads surrendered to Genghis Khan's son Jochi. Under Mongol rule, the Kyrgyz preserved their nomadic culture as well as eagle falconry tradition until the 1990s. Archaeologists trace back falconry in Central Asia to the first or second millennium BC. 
During the communist period in Kazakhstan, many Kazakhs fled for Mongolia, settling down in Bayan Ulgii, an area that has been designated for the Kazakhs of Mongolia today. Kazakhs (Altaic Kazakhs or Altai-Kazakhs) living in Bayan-Ölgii Province of Mongolia continue to hunt with eagles today. There are an estimated 250 eagle hunters in the Western Mongolian province. Their falconry custom, so-called 'horse-riding eagle falconry', is unique in practice only with trained Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos daphanea) on horseback. Their hunting target is almost limited to Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) or Corsac Fox (Vulpes corsac). In the first week of October, 70 eagle hunters gather for the annual Golden Eagle Festival of Mongolia  They use eagles to hunt foxes and hare during the cold winter months when it is easier to see the gold colored foxes against the snow. Many Kazakh traditions have been preserved by the Kazakhs in Mongolia, eagle hunting being amongst them. Although the Kazakh government has made efforts to lure the practitioners of these Kazakh traditions back to Kazakhstan, most Kazakhs have remained in Mongolia.
- Ethnic groups in Chinese history
- Goryeo-Khitan Wars
- Kazakh Steppe
- History of Mongolia
- Wolf hunting
- Article on eagle hunting in Kyrgyzstan with pictures
- Altai eagle hunting article
- Golden Eagle Festival
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