Festivities and celebrations are the most widely practiced ways of entertainment for Mongolian herders. They are accepted as a welcome opportunity to gather with people, friends, and exchange information and of course gossip, trade and redeem debts. The most colorful of all Mongolian celebrations is the Naadam Festival, which draws approximately 600,000 visitors. This colorful event with its panoramic pageantry and excitement is when the Mongolian people celebrate their national sports: wrestling, horse racing and archery. Jockeys in horse racing are kids about 7-13 years old, because of their light weight. These young kids ride bareback to reduce the weight on the horse. These races are grueling and are from 15 kms to 30 kms in length. So the kids must have laser-like sills and stamina.
The favored sport of Mongolian men is hunting. Ethnic Khazaks in Western Mongolia practice thier ancient tradition of hunting with trained Golden Eagles. These massive eagles are often caught at a very young age and trained to hunt small prey in the winter months. The primary quarry is rabbit and fox, whose pelage is in prime condition during the cold winter months. However the hunting has more cultural value than economic. Kazakhs hunt primarily for entertainment and fur rather than for meat. But the meat of the hunted animal is used to feed the eagle. Female eagles are used more because they are believed to be more aggressive than males. After about seven years of hunting, the birds are released into the wild so they can mate and reproduce.
The eagle hunters wear a heavy leather gauntlet when handling their birds. They hunt from horseback, carrying the eagle on their arm, supported by a hand-carved, forked armrest that they brace on the saddle.
In early October, every year, Khazak hunters gather to celebrate their dear tradiiton and hold the Golden Eagle Festival. The celebration commences with a spectacular parade of eagle hunters. Traditionally dressed in colorful dels and huge fox-fur hats (no doubt trophies of past hunts), the procession of hunters arrives on horseback, eagles perched regally on their arms. Also some interesting contests take place to test not only the hunting skills of the Eagle but also the bond between bird and hunter. The Golden Eagle Festival is fast becoming an attraction to visitors.
The wolf hunting is accepted as a very special event, considering that the animal as an idol in Mongolia’s mythology and legends. But the beast is also an immense threat to nomadic life as it targets livestock. The wolf is widely believed to be a very auspicious animal and whoever kills a wolf is considered to have inherited the good omen from the dead animal.
The fact that Mongolians are individualistic in essence does not pose any impediment to their enjoyment of group entertainment. Even games such as chess, played by two individuals, at times attract large number of spectators who contribute noisy, animated comments on the progress of the play.
Mongolian men like to deal with snuffboxes, pipes and horse trading. The trading is more important in social and entertainment value than in its economic value: Items to be purchased are touched and scrutinized carefully. A trade transaction has a boring precursor to it: The grueling ritual greeting between nomads is to inquire about the other person's health, the health of all relatives and elders, exchange information about the weather, and whether the animals are grazing comfortably etc. After these seemingly endless exchanges, comes the bargaining. Surprisingly, that takes only minutes to conclude.