Golden Eagle Festival

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Parade of eagle hunters at festival

The Golden Eagle Festival, or simply Eagle Festival (Mongolian: Бүргэдийн наадам / Bürgediin naadam, [purɡɘˈtiŋ ˈnaːtəm]; Kazakh: Бүркіт той / Bürkıt toi, [b̥ʉrˈkɘt tʰɔj]), is an annual traditional festival held in Bayan-Ölgii aimag, Mongolia.[1] In the eagle festival, Kazakh eagle hunters (Burkitshi) celebrate their heritage and compete to catch small animals such as foxes and hares with specially trained golden eagles, showing off the skills both of the birds and their trainers. Prizes are awarded for speed, agility and accuracy, as well as for the best traditional Kazakh dress, and more.[2][3]

The Eagle Festival is held during the first weekend in October, run by the Mongolian Eagle Hunter's Association. Dark, rocky mountainous terrain forms the backdrop to the festivities, which incorporate an opening ceremony, parade, cultural exhibitions, demonstrations and handcrafts in the centre of the town of Ölgii, followed by sporting activities and competitions 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) outside of town towards the mountains. Dressed in full eagle hunting regalia and mounted on groomed decorated horses, the entrants compete for the awards of Best Turned Out Eagle and Owner; Best Eagle at Hunting Prey and Best Eagle at Locating Its Owner from a Distance. Other sporting activities include horse racing, archery and the highly entertaining Bushkashi - goatskin tug of war on horseback.

The Eagle Festival is featured in the 2016 documentary The Eagle Huntress, in which the 13-year-old Kazakh girl Aisholpan becomes the first female to enter and win the competition.

A smaller festival, the Sagsai Golden Eagle Festival on 17-18 September each year especially for photographers, cinematographers and photo journalists, and the Altai Kazakh Eagle Festival, is also held each year in the nearby village of Sagsai in the last week of September. It follows much the same pattern as the larger Golden Eagle Festival, with about 40 eagle hunters participating.[4]


  1. ^ Soma, Takuya; Battulga, Sukhee (2014). "Altai Kazakh Falconry as Heritage Tourism: "The Golden Eagle Festival" of Western Mongolia'". The International Journal of Intangible Heritage. Seoul: The National Folk Museum of Korea. 9: 135–148.
  2. ^ Murray, Andrew (9 July 2010). "Golden Eagle Festival, Mongolia". Adventure Bimbling. Archived from the original on 13 October 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
  3. ^ Partnerships and understanding between Kazakh pastoralists and golden eagles of the Altai mountains: a multi-species ethnography (2019-04-12). McGough, Lauren. University of St. Andrews.
  4. ^ "Altai Kazakh Eagle Festival". Discover Bayan-Olgii.

Further reading[edit]

  • Soma, Takuya. 2012. ‘Contemporary Falconry in Altai-Kazakh in Western Mongolia’The International Journal of Intangible Heritage (vol.7), pp. 103–111. [1]
  • Soma, Takuya. 2012. ‘Ethnoarhchaeology of Horse-Riding Falconry’, The Asian Conference on the Social Sciences 2012 - Official Conference Proceedings, pp. 167–182. [2]
  • Soma, Takuya. 2012. ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Arts and Knowledge for Coexisting with Golden Eagles: Ethnographic Studies in “Horseback Eagle-Hunting” of Altai-Kazakh Falconers’, The International Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences Research, pp. 307–316. [3]
  • Soma, Takuya. 2012. ‘The Art of Horse-Riding Falconry by Altai-Kazakh Falconers’. In HERITAGE 2012 (vol.2) - Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Heritage and Sustainable Development, edited by Rogério Amoêda, Sérgio Lira, & Cristina Pinheiro, pp. 1499–1506. Porto: Green Line Institute for Sustainable Development. ISBN 978-989-95671-8-4.
  • Soma, Takuya. 2012. ‘Horse-Riding Falconry in Altai-Kazakh Nomadic Society: Anthropological Researches in Summertime Activities of Falconers and Golden Eagle’. Japanese Journal of Human and Animal Relation 32: pp. 38–47 (written in Japanese).
  • Soma, Takuya. 2013. ‘Ethnographic Study of Altaic Kazakh Falconers’, Falco: The Newsletter of the Middle East Falcon Research Group 41, pp. 10–14. [4]
  • Soma, Takuya. 2013. ‘Ethnoarchaeology of Ancient Falconry in East Asia’, The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013 - Official Conference Proceedings, pp. 81–95. [5]
  • Soma, Takuya. 2013. ‘Hunting Arts of Eagle Falconers in the Altai-Kazakhs: Contemporary Operations of Horse-Riding Falconry in Sagsai County, Western Mongolia’. Japanese Journal of Human and Animal Relation 35: pp. 58–66 (written in Japanese).
  • Takuya Soma. 2014. Human and Raptor Interactions in the Context of a Nomadic Society: Anthropological and Ethno-Ornithological Studies of Altaic Kazakh Falconry and its Cultural Sustainability in Western Mongolia (PhD Thesis submitted to University of Kassel, 20 August 2014)
  • 相馬拓也 2012「アルタイ=カザフ鷹匠による騎馬鷹狩猟: イヌワシと鷹匠の夏季生活誌についての基礎調査」『ヒトと動物の関係学会誌(vol. 32)』: pp. 38–47.
  • 相馬拓也 2013「アルタイ=カザフ鷹匠たちの狩猟誌: モンゴル西部サグサイ村における騎馬鷹狩猟の実践と技法の現在」『ヒトと動物の関係学会誌(vol.35)』: pp. 58–66.
  • 日本放送協会(NHK). 2003. 『地球に好奇心:大草原にイヌワシが舞う~モンゴル・カザフ族 鷹匠の親子~』: NHKエンタープライズ(co-produced by 群像舎), (on air: 10:05-10:57, 13 December 2003), NHK-BS2 Television.
  • 日本放送協会(NHK). 2010. 『アジアンスマイル: 僕とイヌワシの冬物語~モンゴル・サグサイ村~』: NHKエンタープライズ(co-produced by 株式会社グループ現代), (on air: 18:30-18:50, 16 January 2010), NHK BS1 Television.
  • 日本放送協会(NHK). 2015. 『地球イチバン: 地球最古のイーグルハンター』: NHK文化福祉部制作, (on air: 22:00-22:50, 29 January 2015), NHK総合.

Dr. Lauren McGough's PhD thesis study entitled "Partnerships and understanding between Kazakh pastoralists and golden eagles of the Altai mountains : a multi-species ethnography" published on April 12, 2019 (University of St. Andrews) Url:

External links[edit]