During the communist period in Kazakhstan, many Kazakhs fled for Mongolia,settling down in Bayan Ulgii, an area that has been designated for the Kazakhs of Mongolia today. Kazakhs (Altaic Kazakhs or Altai-Kazakhs) living in Bayan-Ölgii Province of Mongolia continue to hunt with eagles today. There are an estimated 250 eagle hunters in the Western Mongolian province. Their falconry custom, so-called ‘horse-riding eagle falconry’, is unique in practice only with trained Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos daphanea) on horseback. Their hunting target is almost limited to Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) or Corsac Fox (Vulpes corsac). In the first week of October, 70 eagle hunters gather for the annual Golden Eagle Festival of Mongolia They use eagles to hunt foxes and hare during the cold winter months when it is easier to see the gold colored foxes against the snow. Many Kazakh traditions have been preserved by the Kazakhs in Mongolia, eagle hunting being amongst them. Although the Kazakh government has made efforts to lure the practitioners of these Kazakh traditions back to Kazakhstan, most Kazakhs have remained in Mongolia.
The Golden Eagle Festival has been the largest gathering of eagle hunters and their eagles in the world since it started in 1999 with 70 eagle hunters participating in this event. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Event. The festival starts with display of eagles and hunters, and then goes into the events of eagles displaying their talents. The first event is the eagle catching fox skin dragged behind a horse, returning to their owner from a distance on command, as well as a camel race and Kazakh games of Tiyn Teru (a race to pick up a coin on the ground while on horseback), Kyz Kuar (“girl chase,” a man and woman race on horseback while the woman whips the man), and Kokpar (tug of war over a goat carcass while on horseback). On the evening of the first night is a concert of traditional Kazakh music at the theatre included in the price of a ticket.
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