Hunting or Salbuurun, World Nomad Games

Anyone who has ever seen an eagle or hawk hunt knows it’s not experience that’s easily forgotten. Birds of prey have huge stores of raw strength, coupled with sharp talons and deadly precision. Competitions in salbuurun, or hunting, use dummies and lures to test birds, so there isn’t any gore, but the birds are nevertheless intimidating. Birds are judged on their speed and accuracy, which were necessary traits when birds were an essential part of hunting. Competitions are also held among dogs, who are released to chase a lure pulled by a horse. Hunters use a special breed of dog, called taigans, who are specially trained for agility and speed.

There are also competitions held in various forms of traditional archery, both standing and from horseback. At the World Nomad Games, competitors were required to wear traditional clothing and use traditional bows, rather than sportswear and internationally-regulated bows. Horseback archery requires riding at a gallop past three targets, which demands concentration on both riding (without falling off) and shooting (without missing). Accuracy is, understandably, the most important skill athletes and archers can have.

During the 2016 World Nomad Games, hunting competitions were held in the picturesque Kyrchyn Gorge. Visitors could often see athletes walking around in traditional clothing or with dogs and eagles. The mountains provided a stunning background, and a reminder that these sports were once necessary for survival not so long ago.