Capturing the last of Mongolia’s eagle hunting tribes

As the modern world takes over old ways of life, the ancient tradition is becoming rarer

Jamie Smith
Sunday 24 January 2021 00:01 GMT

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


The Mongolian tribe based in Bayan-Ölgii have used golden eagles to hunt prey during the bleak winter months for centuries, an extraordinary example of a relationship between humans and semi-wild animals.

There are an estimated 250 eagle hunters in the area, which is located in the Altai Mountains in western Mongolia and takes five years to finish training with eagles to become an eagle hunter or berkutchi.

With the younger generation moving away to cities and preferring the comforts of modern living, the modern Kazakh eagle hunters are a dying breed. Despite this, many eagle hunters still pass on their skills to their sons and daughters.

Zay Yar, a 36-year-old photographer, spent some time in western Mongolia documenting the life of these incredible people, capturing their traditions as the tribe hunt on horseback and care for their eagles.

Zay, from Mayanmar, says: “I'm interested in the culture of eagle hunters. How they live, how they train and hunt with their golden eagles and how this tradition is going on. I was happy and amazed to meet these wonderful people and their ancient tradition.

“The images represent the culture of eagle hunting and how the tradition is being passed to young eagle hunters.”


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