These Nomadic Mongolians Ride Reindeer and Hunt with Trained Animals

At first, the legendary “magical connection” that the Nomadic Dukha people of Northern Mongolia share with the region’s animals and landscape seems more like myth than fact. But when you see a Mongolian elder rearing his steed with an enormous golden eagle perched on his shoulder you might reconsider that notion.

Their intimate relationship with reindeer poses multiple benefits. The Dukha people use them as hunting steeds, yield their milk to make cheese and make extra money through tourism, offering reindeer rides, crafts and performances to travelers who might find the domesticity of reindeer a little unusual.

The Dukha people also hunt rabbits with the assistance of their highly-trained wolves and golden eagles, which they can trade for about $2 (USD). Wild elk and boar are also hunted by the Dukha.


There are only about 44 remaining Dukha families left, amounting to roughly 200-400 people. Even the reindeer have diminished in population, with only about 600 currently living.

The Dukha people were recently documented by photographer and researcher, Hamid Sardar-Afkhami, who carries a Harvard Ph.D in Sanskrit and Tibetan Studies, and has spent more than 10 years exploring Tibet and the Himalayas.

You can learn more about the Dukha people in Sardar’s film, The Reindeer People, in which he documents the seasonal migrations of one family as they, “move with a herd of about a hundred reindeer through a sacred forest inhabited by the spirits of their ancestors, who communicate to the living through songs.” 











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