You’re Like a Big Eagle, With Claws and Fangs, Mike

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC PHOTOS. AWESOME, CRAZY COOL, GRAPHIC PHOTOS, BUT GRAPHIC NONETHELESS. Special heads up to animal lovers to proceed with caution (but hey, I’m an animal lover, too, and I thought this was amazing).

So, this is a story about the one time we met a Kyrgyz eagle hunter at a random spot on the side of the road to watch his eagle catch, kill and eat a rabbit. (Has anyone caught the Swingers reference by now? “And she’s just like a little bunny…”) And it was as cool as an eight-year-old boy thinks that sounds.

These birds are incredible. They can live to around 80 years old! This one is quite young actually (only four years old and already impressive in size), and older eagles can grow to be twice the size and are able to kill a wolf. A bird killing a wolf!

Hunters catch them by trap and train them. Once trained, the eagle works as a team with its owner, to catch prey. And this lucky bird at least gets to eat what he kills (or most of it). He also gets a sweet hat to cover his eyes.

Here’s how it went down. The eagle hunter’s assistant walked down a big hill with a rabbit in hand, and released it in the field. The poor little fluffy bunny rabbit made a futile attempt to run. Then our eagle hunter removed the hat from the eagle’s eyes, and within seconds he was flying on down, hovering over the rabbit for a moment before going in for the kill. He caught it without struggle, tearing its neck open with his claws to kill it.

The hunter went down to retrieve the eagle and the rabbit remains, and brought them up close for our viewing pleasure. The two men then severed the bunny’s head so as to save the body for the hunter’s bigger eagle back home, and we watched in amused and captivated horror/delight as the eagle devoured all but the very last bits of its skull.

For brave readers, check out this video (and be sure to note our freak out when the eagle swallows an ear whole):

Like, he pulled off and swallowed whole ears, eyeballs and brains at a time. According to the eagle hunter, the bird will vomit out the fur and bones tomorrow.

Our eagle hunter subsists solely on this eagle hunting business (and a Taigan puppy breeding business on the side. I’m going to need to get in touch with him once we’re no longer homeless, and see about importing a Kyrgyz hunting dog). Of course, he also breeds rabbits to maintain a big enough supply for his eagle hunting demonstrations.

This man loves his eagles. You could tell he wasn’t just saying it. He said the eagle is like a son to him, and by the way he looking lovingly into his eyes, and stroked his feathers while the bird shook rabbit blood onto him, I know it to be true. In fact, the eagle hunter’s wife and children take the backseat of the car. The front seat is reserved for the bird.

Practical Info

This eagle hunting demonstration was an add-on to the three-night itinerary we did with Ecotour. I think we paid 40 GBP. We did this on the drive from the yurt by Lake Issyk Kul to our home stay in Temir-Kanat village.

May 12, 2014 (Monday)

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