Eagle hunters & Eagle festival
More than two thousand years ago the people of the Altai Mountains started to train Eagles to catch small game, as a source of food. Later this form of hunting was developed into a sport by the local nobility, and the sport of falconry spread over most of Central South and West Asia, as far as the Middle East and Europe, reaching the Americas in the 19th Century. Today the Arabian Peninsula is the center of falcon hunting.
The young falcons are taken form their nests, only wild birds are used, and trained and handled by the same experienced men from the region, who train the fabled Golden Eagles.
The Mongolian Kazakhs are the only group among the Kazakh who maintain their pure traditional culture and language.
One of their old traditions for which they are famous is the hunt with Golden Eagles, with which they hunt foxes, rabbits and even wolves!
The Golden Eagle Festival has been the largest gathering of eagle hunters and their eagles in the world since it started in 1999 with 80-100 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.