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Contemporary Falconry in Altai-Kazakh in Western Mongolia

Author(s): Takuya Soma

Journal: International Journal of Intangible Heritage
ISSN 1975-3586

Volume: 7;
Start page: 103;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Altai Mountains | animal-herding economy | Bayan-Ölgii | ecology | ethnic identity | ethnic minority | golden eagle | heritage sociology | transhumance | human-animal interaction | Sagsai | zoo-anthropology | Mongolia

A classical form of ‘eagle falconry’ is still practiced in the Altai-Kazakh community of Bayan-Ölgii (Баян-Өлгий)Prefecture in western Mongolia. Their form of falconry is unique in that they use female golden eagles, they hunt on horseback and foxes are the main prey. This makes it different from any other type of falconry in Asia or Europe and for this reason it is regarded as a form of intangible cultural heritage. However, little is known about the specific cultural context in which this activity is practiced and no serious scientific research has hitherto been conducted into it. The author carried out anthropological research in the Altai-Kazakh community from July 2011 to January 2012 with financial support from the Takanashi Foundation for Arts and Archaeology. This research was based on close observation of the hunters, interviews, and the author’s own experience of taming a golden eagle at Sagsai (Сагсаи) Village. The findings support the view that this type of falconry is indeed a unique form of intangible cultural heritage. In addition, the fact that the practice of hunting foxes with eagles has declined in recent years, suggests that we should now take action to safeguard the practice and preserve it for the future. This paper reports the preliminary results of research undertaken in thesummer of 2011.

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