In western Mongolia, an ancient tradition of hunting with Golden Eagles is still alive. We know from history that Genghis Khan had 1,000 hunting birds – eagles, falcons and gyrfalcons – and so did Kubla Khan. There were protected areas in the steppe marked with stones where only the khans were allowed to hunt. The Kazakhs of Mongolia train their eagles to hunt and here the bird of prey is often considered a family member. The Berkutchi is a falconer who hunts with the Golden Eagle. The training of this bird was seen as difficult and even perilous even by the experienced Synchy. the bird is never a slave of its owner, only a partner in hunting. From ancient times, berkutchi-falconers in the nomadic herder societies had the role of preserving and stocking furs. The high social status of the berkutchi and his family was conditioned by the climate, as warm strong and durable clothing for the people during the winter seasons was a vital necessity. Best-suited for this were the pelts of wolves and foxes…
Aiming for the wolf-pelts, the falconers used special methods from the very beginning of a bird’s training, targeted exclusively to prepare it for casting at wolves. The bird was specially trained to attack a stuffed wolf. It had to take the animal, as the hunters said, “at the place” – i.e. with one foot at the back of the neck and another at the flank closer to the heart and lungs. Then the bird must quickly peck out the wolf’s eyes with its powerful beak. This method required the application of certain family secrets of training, as was important to train the eagle to use a complex and at the same time instantaneous method of depriving the beast of it’s orientation and capability of self-defence. With this aim, during the long training sessions the bird was taught to fly at a stuffed wolf and peck out tasty morsels of meat placed into the skull cavity instead of the eyes.
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