Falcon Hunting or Golden Eagle Hunting with golden eagles is an ancient tradition that originates from the times of the Mongol invasion in Central Asia of the 12th and 13th century, when a good golden eagle and a fast horse had the same value and gave their owner a noticeable authority.
Eagle hunter are called Berkuchi in local language. Despite the fact that, over time, this practice gradually disappeared, hunting with birds (especially with golden eagle) is still popular in some areas of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. People from the west tend to imagine falconry - and although hunting with hawks and falcons also takes place, but for those who hunted with golden eagles, this looks like child's play. Hunting takes place on a specially prepared horse. So that the rider had the opportunity to hold the golden eagle, a special “baldak” device was fitted to the saddle to support his hand.
Usually, they hunt for young deers, foxes, and other small animals. During the hunt, the golden eagle rushes down and kills them with lightning speed. Golden Eagles are even able to kill young wolves when they are not able to cope with deep snow. Sometimes golden eagles hunt in pairs, just like they would in the wild.
Eagle hunting has become part of World Nomad Games, which Kyrgyzstan initiated in 2014. Eagle hunters from all over the world come to Kyrgyzstan to compete in this sport. World Nomad Games are prototype of Olympic games, where sportsmen of nomadic disciplines gather to perform on international stage.
An experienced couple, a Berkutchi (a hunter) and a bird, can, on average, catch 50 or 60 foxes, a dozen badgers, a pair of lynx and 4 - 5 wolves, for a normal four-month season that starts in late autumn. Golden eagles rarely fail to catch their prey, they quickly kill it, usually breaking their necks with their powerful claws. Hunting, training and keeping golden eagles is a very ritual occupation in which both Kyrgyz and Kazakhs are real experts. They even teach the birds, killing the prey to leave barely noticeable marks on their fur.
Training of golden eagles takes a lot of time (3-4 years), it should be done by one person and the process requires constant daily attention. Most birds (with an average lifespan of 40 years) are caught young, they are dressed on their heads with a special hood and placed in a cage with a roost that constantly swings, while Berkuchi sings special songs to the bird so that the bird can get used to his voice. (Later, the golden eagle will be able to discern human voices and will only respond to the call of his master). Berkuchi feeds the bird himself.
When the golden eagle has almost reached adulthood, the owner shows him the skin and fur of those animals that he has to hunt for, so that he is accustomed to the smell and characteristics of prey. All this is done with the help of special commands. Training continues by dragging the fox fur behind the galloping horse. Not all Golden Eagles are suitable for training, but only those that have a special devotion. Despite the fact that they are never tied, they always come back after they kill their prey.
Demonstration of eagle hunting can be performed all year round as part of tours for cultural learning and exchange.