Deep in the rugged hills of the Altai Mountains region of western Mongolia, live a group of hunters with an extremely rare skill of hunting small mammals with golden eagles. These are the Kazakhs.
The Kazakhs are the descendants of Turkic, Mongolic and Indo-Iranian indigenous groups and Huns who populated the territory between Siberia and the Black Sea. For more than 4000 years, nomadic tribes of the Altai region have trained their young men and women in the ancient Mongolian art of golden-eagle hunting and have developed and nurtured a special bond with golden eagles for centuries. The ancient art of eagle hunting is one of the many traditions and skills that the Kazakhs and the Kyrgyz in contemporary Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have held onto for the last decades. They don’t hunt eagles, but rather use the revered golden eagle as their tool and form a close bond with the bird of prey along the way.
Historically, the golden-eagle hunters known as ‘Burkitshi’ have been male, as the age-old art was traditionally handed down from the father to the son. However, in recent years, very few courageous women have developed this skill. Today, there are at least 8 female Mongolian golden-eagle hunters.