In the hills of western Mongolia, photographer Asher Svidensky captures the loving bond between 13-year-old Ashol Pan, and her golden eagle. For a number of Mongolian cultures, including the Dukha people, building a relationship with wolves, eagles and reindeer is as natural as the Western domestication of cats and dogs. The only difference is, these cultures choose infinitely more majestic animals.
“Usually, Kazakhs capture their eagle in his early years and raise him themselves.”
It’s not all tea-and-crumpets though—unlike Western house pets, you don’t bring these animals home from a store, but rather have to build a relationship that begins in the wild. The training process for an eagle is tricky—despite what you may think, wild birds don’t share the natural enthusiasm for being trained that a dog might. You have to blindfold the eagle from a young age to establish its dependency on you, and devote an incredible amount of time and care to the animal.
Ashol Pan is possibly the youngest and only female eagle huntress in Mongolia, where the art is traditionally practiced by men alone.
Every year there is a hunting festival in Mongolia, where dozens of hunters come to show off their unique relationship with the birds, and the skills they have used to train them. According to Inhabitat, “Berkutchy” is a long-standing tradition where birds—mostly eagles—are trained to work alongside hunters to track down rabbits, foxes and even wolves. Not all of these animals are for eating, but for skinning and creating thick fur pelts that help to endure the winter cold. For Pan, though, her relationship with the massive bird is joyfully dedicated to the bond itself, rather than any hunting purposes.
(Image credits to Asher Svidensky)
WRITTE BY: ROB HOFFMAN