The Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia


The Mongolian Eagle Falconers’ Association

In 2000, the Mongolian Eagle Falconers’ Association (MEFA) (formerly the Eagle Hunters’ Association) was founded in the city of Olgii, which is located in Mongolia’s western province of Bayan-Olgii, and is the Mongolian heart of the thousands-year-old Kazakh tradition of hunting with Golden Eagles.

That same year, MEFA organized its first Golden Eagle Festival. Since then, each year the Golden Eagle Festival is held during the first weekend in October, and it has grown into one of the most popular, annual cultural events in Mongolia. It attracts hundreds of eagle falconers accompanied by their majestic eagles. They gather to fiercely compete and test their own and their eagles’ hunting skills, enthusiastically encouraged by the local people and tourists from all over the world.

The main goal of the MEFA is to pass on this unique Kazakh tradition to future generations, and showcase it to a global audience.
Thanks to the growing popularity of the annual Golden Eagle Festival, the number of eagle falconers in the Bayan-Olgii area has grown fourfold from around 100 when MEFA was established to 400 in 2021. Moreover, in the past there were few women eagle falconers, but the famous documentary The Eagle Huntress, as well as a growing interest in cultural tourism in Mongolia have inspired twenty young women to become eagle falconers.

Short video description about Mongolian Eagle hunters

© Video by RedBull

The Kazakh tradition of Hunting with Eagles

Based on historic resources, central Asian nomads trained and used wild eagles to hunt as far back as 2000 years ago. The tradition is still practiced among nomadic people in Kazakhstan, as well as the 100,000 or so ethnic nomadic Kazakhs who live in the mountainous region of northwestern Mongolia. Their Kazakh roots keep the tradition of hunting with Eagles an important cornerstone of their culture.

Bayan-Olgii province, at 1600 meters above sea level, is located in the Altai Mountains, the highest peaks in Mongolia and surrounded by the Tavan Bogd, Tsengelkhairkhan and Tsambagarav mountains with glaciers on their shadow side, and the melting snow supplying several rivers and lakes. This area is the home to the golden eagles, snow leopards, deer, mountain goats , wolves , foxes, marten and large numbers of birds.

The Kazakhs who reside in this part of Mongolia are nomadic, moving around every four seasons with their livestock and hunting eagles. There are many interesting ancient legends and stories about the ways and methods of eagle falconers. Back in the day, skilled eagles were able to hunt not only smaller animals but also strong agile animals such as wolves and leopards. These eagles were the pride of their owner and tribe.

Throughout the ages, the Kazakh elders have kept their tradition of hunting with eagles alive by teaching younger generations their falconry traditions, techniques and culture. Falconry gear