Deer stones - experience them as part of our archaeological Mongolia day tour
Mongolia Day Tour – Spend a day with an archaeologist
September 17, 2019
At one of Mongolia's Eagle Festivals
Mongolia’s Eagle Festivals
September 25, 2019
The Eagle Huntress Mongolia

The Eagle Huntress (es) of Mongolia

The Eagle Huntress of Mongolia is a Kazakh – one of  Mongolia’s largest ethnic minority group representing 3-4% of Mongolia’s population (Mongolia’s entire population is just over 3 million people).  The Kazakhs are known for their tradition of hunting with eagles – known as ‘berkutchi’ and in 2011, UNESCO added Kazakh eagle hunting to the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as an example of living human heritage.

Meet Aisholpan the eagle huntress - seen here together with her father Nurgaiv

Aisholpan was the first female Kazakh eagle hunter in western Mongolia. She entered her first eagle hunting competition at the age of 13 – and won. The documentary (aptly named the Eagle Huntress) documents Aisholpan as she learns from her father to train her female golden eagle (named Akkanat) – breaking a centuries-old tradition that says the skill is handed down from father to son (after Aisholpan’s brother left to join the Army).

One of the ways we work in western Mongolia is supporting the younger aspiring eagle hunters – both male and female. This helps to create a space where traditional knowledge can be passed from older to younger generations, as it always has been. This helps keep it alive, in a real, breathing way for the future. However, a major part of our philosophy is to break down the stereotypes and cliches that are used in tourism in Mongolia and as part of this we A major part of our philosophy is to break down the stereotypes and cliches that are used in tourism in Mongolia work with a broad spectrum of Mongolian society so that our support is spread further. If you were to meet these younger Kazakhs in the street then you would probably dismiss them as young modern Kazakhs. However, each owns and trains their own eagle. Their way of life is entirely different to that of most of the other older eagle hunters that we work with and that’s one reason we work with them – as it gives you a contrasting insight into the diversity of the way of life for the Kazakh eagle hunters.  

We now work with three Kazakh female huntresses. You’ve probably heard of Aisholpan (the focus of the documentary The Eagle Huntress). However, you may not have heard of Aigerim or Ahkelik. They are also young eagle huntresses and have been training and hunting with their eagles as long as Aisholpan.  We are proud that we work with all three and their families in long-term local community partnership.

The Eagle Huntress - Aisholpan

The Eagle Huntress – Aisholpan. In the words of our guest Shobha Gopinath: ‘This child is about to become a Hollywood star.  Yet, she had no airs whatsoever. In fact, she had just returned from L.A. and had only a couple of weeks practice before the competition and yet she achieved an overall 3rd place this year! Somehow I think she will remain grounded, just looking at her upbringing, environment and ambition to become a master eagle hunter. She has inspired other Mongolian girls to take up the eagle-hunting. Talk about breaking barriers!’

 

The Eagle Huntress - Ahkelik - Mongolia

The Eagle Huntress – Ahkelik

 

The Eagle Huntress - Aikerim

The Eagle Huntress – Aigerim

Why do we work with them?

At EL, all of our trip assistants (guides) are Mongolian women and we believe that seeing women in independent positions is surely one of the best ways to inspire younger girls within the rural communities of Mongolia – including the eagle huntresses  – and to let them understand that they can do the same.

Yes, they are eagle hunters and the subject of many media images. But they are also young women who enjoy going to school and meeting with their friends. They are very sociable young women and like to meet people from other cultures and countries. What I love is that eagle hunting has allowed both these young women to become courageous whilst at the same time teaching them the strength of perseverance as they continue to overcome obstacles such as centuries of tradition.

A favourite moment – Aisholpan together with her brother and sister playing the game of Ghost. The competition was fierce. Aisholpan wasn’t a film star or an eagle hunter, she was just hanging out with her family, messaging her friends on Facebook and helping her mum around the house. Just daily real life.

As mentioned, our trip assistants are female and Mongolian. What I have enjoyed the most is seeing how our trip assistants and Aisholpan have formed a firm friendship. For example, one of the past discussions included dreams and ambitions (Aisholpan – physician, Oyuha – a member of parliament). Aisholpan has received offers from both Harvard and Oxford and has said many times to us that although the film was fun, her dream is still to be a physician. All I can say is watch this space.

Aigerim, together with her family including her eagle hunter father Asker, are based in Altai soum. During the summer months when Aigerim is not at school, she enjoys joining our guests on their hikes and doing jump shot selfies!

If you’re interested in experiencing the way of life of the eagle huntress (es) then take a look at our Mongolia tours page of our website. Please understand that there is no guarantee you will meet the eagle huntresses as all three are at school and schooling is important to their future and we like to support her rather than impose. This applies to both homestays and any festivals – also, they don’t always compete at the festivals. However, festivals usually take place on the weekend and we always invite them to lunch during the festivals even if they’re not competing. They often bring their mum or dad. Please be prepared to be flexible. Do get in touch for details.

Jess @ Eternal Landscapes

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I’m Jess Brooks. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and am the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia - a registered Mongolian business and social travel enterprise that focuses on providing travellers with a real 21st Century insight into Mongolia. Together with my beloved Mongolian team, we focus on tourism that makes a positive difference. I'm also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - awarded for my work in Mongolia and a published guidebook author - having worked together with World Adventure Guides to produce a digital interactive guide to Mongolia. http://www.jessbrooks.co.uk/
Sign up to our Newsletter

Written by Jess - the founder of Eternal Landscapes - there's no spam, no sharing your details and no random offers. It goes out once or twice a month. Hopefully enough to be of interest but not too much to annoy.

We respect your privacy.