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Ruslan, The Eagle Hunter from Kyrgyzstan
September 19, 2017

The Eagle Hunter of Kyrgyzstan

It’s just not all about hunting with help of bird of prey or keep the bird for pride, but it’s about bonding with the bird for a life.

Central Asia is the birthplace of the Eagle’s hunting. Hunting with eagles is not only fundamental in nomadic Kyrgyz and Kazakh culture but in the past was essential to the acquisition of food and furs in the harsh winter months for the family.

The tradition of hunting with large birds of prey, mainly with golden eagles, goes back hundreds of years in Kyrgyzstan and probably dates back to the Mongol conquest around the 12th and 13th centuries. In current days, the art is slowly dying out, and it is only practised by a handful of Kyrgyz and Kazakhs in this region.

Finally, the time came close to meet with a pair eagle and the master, but my surprise there were three of them, two birds and the master. I must say a team of three Ruslan the master with Karakys and Karachin, respectively 5 and 2.5 years old birds. The mighty Golden eagle has a lifespan of 40 years approx and this is obviously very young. But you really can’t underestimate the power of their claws. Hunters prefer to have a female bird to have as they are bigger in size and aggressive compared to male birds. At adult age, the bird can open up wings more than a meter on one side and weight up to around 6-8 kilograms.

Birds are taken from the nest at very early age and get trained by hunters for a long time. They spend almost 20 years of their life with the hunter. But at age of 20, they are set in the wilderness to live their wildlife, but this is interestingly done. Releasing them back is perhaps a practice that helped sustain the population of free-living birds in the times when eagle-hunting was a widespread tradition in Central Asia.

Some images of young Eagle Hunter with the bird of prey, I made during my recent trip to Kyrgyzstan.

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