Eagle Festival
on Sarah in Mongolia (Mongolia), 02/Mar/2010 11:16, 34 days ago
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On the day after Tsaagan Tsar there is a day of rest to recover from the over indulgence of the two previous days and to digest the humungous amounts of food and to prevent everyone turning up to work with a hangover! I took the chance to go skiing in the morning to work off my calories and to refuel in the evening with a pancake party to celebrate pancake Tuesday!On the following day I took the day off to attend an Eagle festival near Ulaanbaatar. The traditional Eagle festival is held in Bayan Ulgii, in the Altai Mountains where the Kazakh people who hunt with eagles for their livelihood live. This eagle festival is a tourist festival put on purely to attract tourists for UB. However the eagles, hunters and horses are all brought down from the Bayan Ulgii region, which is 3 days drive away, and so it was an opportunity not to be missed. We took the free bus from the city center to the national park which is about 20 minutes from UB.When we arrived we were immediately drawn to the first Eagle we saw and we all paid to hold it. It was extremely heavy and very scary to get that close to its huge claws! Eventually the festival began with the parade of the hunters on their horses carrying their eagles. Then we had the judging of the hunters, eagles and dress. THis is apparently an integral part of any traditional Mongolian festival.THen we got on to the good stuff! The activities began with the eagles at the top of the hill and their hunter at the bottom of the hill with an animal tail on a string. The hunter has to call their animal and get it to "catch" the animal tail. Then we progressed to the eagles landing on their hunters arm. THis was hilarious as the Eagles really didnt see the point of this activity and most refused to participate so the hunters rode up and down the field making funny noises while the Eagle watched disdainfully!!Then the eagles got a rest and the animal rights people had to leave. It was time for goat pulling. THis event involved 2 men on horses taking one end of a goat carcass each and pulling until the other person lets go. It was absolutely hilarious, and really dangerous because they would just plow through the crowd in their attempts to unseat the other rider.Then the piece de resistance - the live bait! Apparently the weather wasnt right to use foxes so rabbits were set free and two eagles had to race to get to the rabbit first. The poor rabbits didn't have a chance as the lazy eagles just had to swoop on them and they were done for. It was a little macabre but it is their way of life and how they live and hunt in the wild. Of course this would never be allowed in the UK or the US.