with Horse and Hound

Hunting the Fox with the Golden Eagle

In Mongolia, the berkutchis (horse-mounted eagle hunters) hunt the fox for its pelt with Golden Eagles. These birds occupy a place of honor in the life of the Kazakhs, who regard the majestic raptor as guardians of their homes, their children, and even their health.

The life of the berkutchi is nomadic, and in some cases the profession is passed down from generation to generation.  The eagle is the hunter’s most treasured and respected possession and is fed before the rest of the family. Slivers of bite-sized fox meat for the bird are first carefully rinsed of blood, which is said to fatten the eagle and cool its hunting ardor.

Emmie V. Abadilla wrote of her adventure with a berkutchi family in the Manilla Bulletin, and explains the dangerous job of capturing a female fledgling (females grow bigger and hunt more aggressively that the males), welcoming her with honor into the family, teaching her to balance on the hunter’s arm while riding, and training her with lures. This is Part 2 of five parts and can be read in full from this link.

Part 3 tells of the hunt. Here’s an excerpt:

“Suddenly, the wranglers shouted. Then they were scrabbling for stones and hurling them to flush out the fox. Something yellow streaked below. Tekei released his eagle. She circled above us then swooped down in a flash. Locked together, eagle and fox rolled downhill in a cloud of snow and dust.”

The final trick is to retrieve the fox from the clutches of the eagle as she stands victorious over her prey, her nine-foot wings spread wide to hide her catch. Surely this is foxhunting in its most exotic incarnation!

Posted February 27, 2012