Salavat and Arslanbek revive the tradition of nomadic peoples with their award-winning “Eagle Hunting Show”

Eagle Hunting – Kirghizistan

For centuries, in the regions of Central Asia, nomadic communities have preserved the ancient Kazakh tradition of hunting with the golden eagle, handing it down from generation to generation. Skilled “Eagle Hunters” are known as búrkitshy. During the summer months, these families move in search of lush pastures to feed their livestock, but when winter arrives and the fur of their prey thickens, they take advantage of the snowfall to hunt with their majestic golden eagles.

A strong bond

The bond between the hunter and the eagle begins when the hunters capture the baby eaglets from their nest, taking advantage of the moment when the mother is looking for food. Only female eagles are used for hunting, as they are naturally larger than males, with a wingspan that can reach 2.5 metres, but mainly because females are more ferocious hunters.

Before eagles are ready to hunt, they have to be trained for years. The training includes a series of exercises which, over the years, create a very intimate bond between the hunter and the eagle. Although these magnificent creatures can live up to twenty-five years, hunters keep them for around ten years. When the time comes, the eagle is released to live out the last years of its life in the wild, hoping it will reproduce and thus secure the future of its species.

Hunters begin their training at the age of thirteen, thus immersing themselves in the fascinating world of golden eagle hunting.

The hunting

The thrilling hunt begins at dawn on the highest peaks of the valleys. Hunters move in small groups, consisting of three people, taking their eagles up the mountains to allow them to scan the valleys below in search of foxes, wild cats, hares and other prey.

Once they reach the peaks, the more expert hunters position themselves on the highest points, while the others remain downstream, ready to intervene in the event that the prey flees in their direction, thus increasing the chances of catching it.

When a hunter spots an animal, he removes the protective helmet from the eagle’s head, which normally serves to keep it quiet, and releases it. The hunter gives a characteristic call, so that the eagle knows that the time has come to attack.

If the hunt is successful, the hunter skins the fox and uses its meat to feed the eagle, while the fur is used to create warm clothing or sold to obtain money needed to buy basic necessities and support families during the harsh winter months.

Eagle Hunter – Kirghizistan

The Eagle Hunting in Kirgystan

Also in Kyrgyzstan it is one of the ancient traditions and from here my journey in Central Asia began with the consequent desire to explore. If horses are the “wings” of the Kyrgyz people, eagle hunting occupied a special place in the life of nomads, especially in the past. I had the opportunity to personally meet Salavat, the best eagle hunter at the Nomad World Games and watch his eagle show. He and his younger brother Arslanbek revealed to me the secrets of training these majestic birds of prey. It is five o’clock in the afternoon when we arrive and Salavat stands on his horseback at the top of the hill, dominating the landscape and raising his eagle high with his right arm. Nearby, Arslanbek follows the movements and learns. As the sun slips behind the high Kyrgyz mountains and shadows stretch to the ground in the warm light of the setting sun. It’s fascinating. Epic. Unique.

Luca Oliveri – Kirghizistan

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