The eagle hunters of Kyrgyzstan
The art of hunting using eagles was introduced into Kyrgyzstan from Mongolia during the time of Genghis Khan. Today there are some fifty men left who continue the tradition, including Talgarbek who came to demonstrate the art with his nine-year-old golden eagle, Tumara.
For the display, it is possible to see her kill a live rabbit, but we had been warned that this can be upsetting. Apparently they are tame rabbits brought up by the hunter and his family; the eagle will not hunt/kill when she is hooded and cannot therefore see her prey properly and the rabbits are used to her presence. On a previous display the guide said the rabbit had not even realised it was supposed to run away and so just sat there as the eagle landed until the bird started pecking at it. Not quite the same as seeing an eagle coming down and grabbing a rabbit in its talons and tearing it to pieces, which might be a spectacle worth seeing (given that the eagle has to eat…). So for us he used a fox fur, pulled along the ground by a rope, as the prey. The eagle, left unhooded and free on a rock a little up the mountainside, quickly spotted the fur and swooped down onto it, at which point the hunter ran up, fed her some alternative food (presumably the rabbit!) and removed the fur.