It took one of the fiercest clans, the Mongols, to tame and train one of the fiercest birds of prey: the Golden Eagle. Their wings span over 7 feet, they weigh more than 7 pounds and they can pick up goats and throw them off cliffs. Genghis Khan himself allegedly had a whole regiment of “eagle riders.” I can only imagine the amount of terror these creatures inspired when they took flight and were told by their Mongolian trainers to attack.
But, that was years ago, even before Genghis Khan’s sons and grandsons made a mess of the empire he had created through drunkenness and idleness. Falconry is as old as civilization, and nothing is more badass than having a 7 pound bird capable of tearing to bits small prey, like rabbits and foxes, on your arm. Plus, eagle hunting and ceremonies such as this are a dying piece of culture. This traditional nomadic way of life and hunting are practiced by few today. This festival is the largest of its kind in the world, and features only 70 eagles and hunters!
Every year the first week of October
HOW TO GET THERE:
This world’s largest Golden Eagle Festival takes place at the beginning of October every year just outside the city of Olgii. The only way to get to Olgii is via plane from Ulaanbaatar. Olgii is a small town formed in the mid 1800’s Altai Mountains, hence why getting there is so difficult. This city has the largest concentration of active eagle hunters (about 250) out of anywhere in the world. For young boys that remain nomadic eagle training and hunting is a rite of passage into manhood. These eagles are fierce creatures capable of crushing bone with a claw grasp.
The festival features competitions between the hunters, goat carcass pulling on horseback, camel races and more. This is a chance to explore the culture and lifestyle of a vanishing nomadic people, and experience a completely different way of life.