Mongolian Nomadic life
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3 000 years, the people of the steppes have adopted a pastoral way of
life moving in the search of best pastures and campsites. They live by
and for their livestock, in the forefront of which the horse undoubtedly
was the first animal domesticated in these infinite meadows. Today,
approximately half of Mongolia’s population is still roaming the vast
plains living in the ger and moving their campings several times a year
on the grounds with no fence. Nomadic life thrives in summer and
survives in winter. Considering climatic conditions, especially during
winter, such lifestyle may seem to the outside world to be a very hard
way of living. However, Mongolians have developed for centuries such
qualities as strength and resilience that are essential for survival in
this harsh nature, which is their cherished homeland.
number of nomads has significantly decreased over the last years. Nomads
move to the capital city being compelled by the necessity to search for
means of subsistence or attracted by city lights and perceived
advantages of urban life. After the last terrible winters many nomadic
families lost all their herds that were the source of living. Such
situation requiring an emergency aid resulted in large rural-to-urban
migration, especially from the west of the country, driving nomadic
herders as well as stockbreeders from small rural towns towards the
suburbs of the capital city.
Mongolian nomads raise 5 species of livestock known as the 5 muzzles:
horses, cows or yaks, sheep, goats and camels. Reindeers are raised by
the Tsaatan people who
live in the northwest areas around the lake Khovsgol bordering the
Mongolia is the land of the horse. Any nomad can ride as well as he or she can walk or run.
Small Mongolian horses are incredibly resistant. They live all year around in semi-wild herds, gathered only for the draft and the capture. They are partially watched over by herdsmen to defend only against the wolves in winter.
Apart from being used for riding and inheritance, the horse gives the nomads their preferred drink - airag, which is fermented and slightly alcoholized mare’s milk. Mongolians of any ages drink liters of airag in summer praising its virtues for health and the digestive tract !
Airag of certain areas is more famous as compared to others. The taste depends on the grazing grounds and the skillfulness of the maker. If it is relevant to make a comparison, one can say that airag has approximately the same cultural and social importance as wine can have in France.
are definitely on the high when they are involved for the annual race of
Naadam. Ridden by young
racers, they demonstrate all their strength and beauty for the pride of
their owner and breeder and the glory goes to the horse and the owner
than to the particular rider.
and cows bring meat, leather and milk, which is used for making a
variety of diary products such as yoghurt, cheese and aaruul (or dried
cheese) that constitute the main diet of nomads during the summer months.
Aaruul, which represents cheese balls of different shapes and sizes
dried on the roof of the ger, is especially popular and is consumed all
is the most universal animal used for meat and milk, the basic food of
nomadic lifestyle, skins and wool for clothing and felt for ger covering.
are more difficult to raise than sheep, but they are appreciated for
their meat and especially cashmere, goat’s down, one of the highly
valued natural fibers. Mongolia is one of the largest producers and
exporters of the finest quality cashmere in the world.
Bactrian camels are used in Gobi for meat, milk, wool as well as for
riding and as a carrier for long distance movements.
families often gathered in groups move generally in the radius of 50 to
100 kilometers, at least twice a year, in spring (May) and at the
beginning of winter (October). However, more significant displacements
are sometimes necessary in the search of better pastures. Uvuljuu
or winter camps are located in areas that are naturally sheltered from
wind and are equipped with barns for the animals to stay for the night.
Nomads devote all of the day to caring after their animals – watching over, milking, shearing, or combing – to produce felt and felt clothes, cheese and other dairy products. Horses are raised and looked after by men but are milked by women.
Nomads use a pole-lasso or uurga to gather the herds and to capture the horses.
is the usual term for the Mongolian felt tent or ger, but this
word is not very much appreciated by Mongolians themselves because it is
of Turkish origin and was used by the Western invaders and the last of
them - the Russians.
majority of Mongolians in rural areas, even Mongolians in urban downtown,
live in these comfortable tents that nowadays are sometimes very well
equipped with all "modern amenities". Ger is the truly
universal traditional dwelling that has been adapted over the centuries
to the realities of nomadic life in harsh steppes. It is incredibly warm
in winter and cool in summer and is resistible to powerful winds without
being fixed in the ground. Is is easily dismountable and
transportable that is so important for nomads during their regular
consists of a wooden frame and is covered with felt. It weighs from 150
to 300 kgs and can be assembled and dismantled in approximately 2 hours.
interior organization of ger is identical everywhere: the door faces the
south, the men’s place is in the west part, the north side is the
place for honoured guests or old people as well as the place for the
family altar, the east side is the women’s territory. The stove
occupies the center of the ger.
visitors since the 15/11/99