Life With the Eagle Hunters

Life With the Eagle Hunters

Wednesday September 07, 2016 Written by Genevieve

Mongolian Eagles

Got any 4000-year-old traditions in your family? Neither do we. But these Kazakh Sayatshy men do, and it's a pretty impressive sight to behold.

Mongolian Eagles

Said to have its origins in about 940 AD, the practice of Sayat – hunting with golden eagles – still happens today in pockets across Central Asia. Though most practitioners operate in Mongolia, where many Kazakhs fled during the communist period of Kazakhstan, Sayat is still an extremely important Kazakh custom, captured in these incredible pictures by Australian photographer Massimo Rumi.  

Mongolian Eagles

It’s estimated that 250 Sayet are operating in western Mongolia today, where they hunt dark hares and foxes in the winter months. After completing the dangerous mission to take an eagle from its nest, Sayet men spend about five years training it.

Mongolian Eagles

Unsurprisingly, bird and man form an extremely strong bond over this time – Sayet men treat their eagles like children, singing and speaking to them constantly to soothe, connect, and imprint their voices in their eagles’ minds. Hunting expeditions are made on horseback, where the Sayet ride in resplendent garments, galloping along mountain ranges with eagles on their arms like total bosses.  

Mongolian Eagles

After all that time together, it must be heartbreaking when they Sayet release these glorious creatures back into the wild, which is exactly what they do when they feel their eagle has seen enough service. But then again, it’s the least they can do for a master of prey who has assisted in keeping their traditions, not to mention bodies, alive.

Mongolian Eagles