Tradition of hunting with golden eagles
Hunting with the golden eagle is one of the most common types of traditional hunting in Kyrgyzstan. The golden eagle is used for hunting predatory, furry rodents and other small animals. It is an ancient tradition that goes back to the times of the Mongol Khanate in Central Asia (XII – XIII centuries). At that time, a clever golden eagle and a fast horse were on weight of gold, and gave the owner a noticeable authority. Kyrgyz tribes use hunting birds to hunt from the 10th century AD. up to now, they keep this incredible tradition from generation to generation.
The Golden Eagle is one of the largest eagles with a life span of up to 40 years. Its wings reach a range of 2-2.5 meters. It is very dexterous in flight, brave, strong and has amazing vision.
Training eagles takes up to 4 years, the process is time-consuming and requires daily attention. During this time, a friendship is established between a man and a bird. Not all eagles can be so trained, but those that do show intense loyalty. The majority of birds are caught even by chicks, they are put into a cage with a perch and put on a special hood (tomogo). Berkutchi (hunter) feeds the bird, sings songs, says warm words, taming the bird to its voice. Later, the golden eagle will learn to respond only to its master’s call.
When a golden eagle is trained and has almost reached adulthood, the bird is shown the skin or fur of those animals which a golden eagle should later hunt. Thus, a golden eagle gets used to the smell and peculiarities of its prey. All this is done with the help of special commands. The training continues by dragging fox fur behind a running hunter from a mountain slope or a galloping horse. The hunter takes off the volume, the golden eagle quickly looks back, wings and flies from the height to the prey. Immediately after grabbing the prey, he pushes his sharp claws in and with the help of strong legs the golden eagle strikes the victim. In the process of training, the golden eagle is never tethered and always return after killing their prey. They even manage to get the bird to kill the prey while scarcely leaving a mark on its fur. Sometimes golden eagles are taught to hunt in pairs, on strong predators like a young deer, wolf or goat.
The hunting season with golden eagles starts in October and ends in February. Cunning bird in tandem with the hunter is capable of killing a dozen badgers, up to 50 foxes, a couple of wolves during the season.
Moreover, nowadays, hunting with golden eagles is a national sport in Kyrgyzstan. Visiting Kyrgyzstan you get unique opportunity to meet famous local hunters personally, to take part in the annual Salbuurun festival (hunters’ competition), to see training and hunting demonstration of birds of prey, to hold and touch the bird, to evaluate the wingspan and speed of diving, and to get unforgettable emotions.