Hunting with eagles

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Hunting with eagles is a traditional form of falconry found throughout the Eurasian Steppe, practiced by the Kazakhs and the Kyrgyz in contemporary Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as diasporas in Bayan-Ölgii Provinces Bayan-Ölgii, Mongolia, and Xinjiang, China. Though these people's people are most famous for hunting with golden eagles, they have been known to train northern goshawks, peregrine falcons, saker falcons, and more.[1]


In both Kazakh and Kyrgyz, there are separate terms for those who hunt with birds of prey in general, and those who hunt with eagles.

In Kazakh, both qusbegi and sayatshy refer to falconers in general. Qusbegi comes from the words qus ("bird") and bek ("lord"), 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 the court falconer.[2] Sayatshy comes from the word sayat ("falconry") and the suffix -shy, used for professional titles in Turkic languages. The Kazakh word for falconers that hunt with eagles is búrkitshy, from búrkit ("golden eagle"), while the word for those that use goshawks is qarshyghashy, from qarshygha ("goshawk").

In Kyrgyz, the general word for falconers is münüshkör. A falconer who specifically hunts with eagles is a bürkütchü, from bürküt ("golden eagle").


Khitans eagle hunters on horse, (Song Dynasty).


In 936-45 AD the Khitans, a nomadic people from Manchuria, conquered part of north China.[3] In 960 AD China was conquered by the Song dynasty.[4] 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.[5] Despite the fact that the Khitans assimilated Chinese culture, they retained many nomadic traditions, including eagle hunting[6] (see the unknown Chinese painting from Song dynasty).


Many Jurchen tribes hunted the hai dong qing, the Khitan tried to take the eagle hunting for themselves by force, but it did not end in the Khitan's favour. The Jurchen started a revolt against them, which let them regain access to the hai dong qing that they hunted previously.


In 1207, the Kyrgyz nomads surrendered to Genghis Khan's son Jochi. Under Mongol rule, the Kyrgyz preserved their nomadic culture as well as eagрle falconry tradition until the 79.[7][8] Archaeologists trace back falconry in Central Asia to the first or second millennium BC.[9] [10]


During the communist period in Kazakhstan, many Kazakhs fled for Mongolia,[11] settling in Bayan-Ölgii Province and bringing with them their tradition of hunting with eagles. There are an estimated 250 eagle hunters in Bayan-Ölgii, which is located in the Altai Mountains of western Mongolian.[12][13][14] Their falconry custom involves hunting with golden eagles on horseback, and they primarily hunt red foxes and corsac foxes.[15] They use eagles to hunt foxes and hares during the cold winter months when it is easier to see the gold colored foxes against the snow.[16][17] Each October, Kazakh eagle hunting customs are displayed at the annual Golden Eagle Festival.[18][19] Although the Kazakh government has made efforts to lure the practitioners of these Kazakh traditions back to Kazakhstan, most Kazakhs have remained in Mongolia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Keen, Dennis. "Kyrgyz Falconers Use Falcons, Too". The Central Asian Falconry Project. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  2. ^ Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Lewis, B.; Pellat, C., eds. (1980). The Encyclopaedia of Islam. 5. Leiden: E. J. Brill. p. 18.
  3. ^ The Art of War by Sun Tzu - Special Edition by Sun Tzu and Lionel Giles (2005) p.170
  4. ^ China: Its History and Culture (4th Edition) by W. Scott Morton, Charlton M. Lewis, and Charlton Lewis (2004) p.100
  5. ^ 5 Steps to a 5: AP World History (5 Steps to a 5) by Peggy Martin (2004) p.115
  6. ^ Eagle Dreams: Searching for Legends in Wild Mongolia by Stephen J. Bodio (2003) p. 26
  7. ^ Soma, Takuya. 2007. ‘Kyrgyz Falconry & Falconers and its Transition’. In Proceedings of Great Silk Road Conference, Culture and Traditions, Then and Now 2006. 130-139. Tashkent: Academy of Uzbekistan/ UNESCO
  8. ^ 相馬拓也 2008「形象なき文化遺産としての狩猟技術: キルギス共和国イシク・クル湖岸における鷹狩猟のエスノグラフィ」『国士舘大学地理学報告2007(第16号)』: pp.99-106 [1]
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 3, 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-12-01. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-10-17. Retrieved 2015-10-17. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Keen, Dennis. 2014. 'The Central Asian Falconry Project'. [2]
  • Soma, Takuya. 2012. ‘Contemporary Falconry in Altai-Kazakh in Western Mongolia’The International Journal of Intangible Heritage (vol.7), pp. 103–111. [3]
  • Soma, Takuya. 2012. ‘Ethnoarhchaeology of Horse-Riding Falconry’, The Asian Conference on the Social Sciences 2012 - Official Conference Proceedings, pp. 167–182. [4]
  • 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. [5]
  • 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. [6]
  • Soma, Takuya. 2013. ‘Ethnoarchaeology of Ancient Falconry in East Asia’, The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013 - Official Conference Proceedings, pp. 81–95. [7]
  • 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).
  • Soma, Takuya & Battulga, Sukhee. 2014. 'Altai Kazakh Falconry as Heritage Tourism: “The Golden Eagle Festival” of Western Mongolia', "The International Journal of Intangible Heritage vol. 9", edited by Alissandra Cummins, pp. 135–148. Seoul: The National Folk Museum of Korea. [8]
  • Takuya Soma. 2014. ‘Eagle Hunters in Action: hunting practice of Altaic Kazakh falconers in Western Mongolia’, Falco: The Newsletter of the Middle East Falcon Research Group 44, pp. 16–20. [9]
  • 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)

External links[edit]