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Kyrgyz hunters show off skills with golden eagles, hunting dogs

Dunya News

Around 15 golden eagle hunters brought their birds of prey to the event.

ISSYK-KUL (Reuters) - Aiming to revive traditional hunting customs, Kyrgyzstan held its annual Salburun hunting festival on Saturday (July 27) in the Issyk-Kul region some 300km (482 miles) away from the capital Bishkek.

Featuring hunting competitions using bows, dogs and birds of prey, the contest drew around a hundred competitors from across the country as well as international tourists.

Around 15 golden eagle hunters brought their birds of prey to the event.

Aitbek Sulaymanbaev, one of the ‘berutchki’ or golden eagle huntsmen, said he had spent time with the birds from infancy, as his ancestors had hunted with golden eagles and other birds.

Sulaymanbaev said it was important to bond with an eagle through eye contact to tame the bird and train it to hunt, and that the process was similar to training horses.

Swiss tourist Daniel Beuchat said he enjoyed the competition featuring hunters mounted on horses using eagles most of all, saying it was "spectacular".

Also featured at the festival were archery contests and competitions featuring the national breed of Kyrgyz Taigan hunting dogs, known for their ability to work in high altitudes.

Kyrgyz traditional hunting methods fell out of practice for around a hundred years, throughout the Soviet period and in the years following the break-up of the USSR, said Muratbek Abdyldaev, another hunter.

He said interest in Kyrgyz hunting traditions was reviving and flourishing thanks to the festival organisers.