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The Five Animals of Nomads

The extreme climate and landlocked Geography have greatly influenced the Mongol’s way of life, which has always involved living close to the animals on the steppes. The Mongolian nomads are often called ‘Five-animal people” because the nomadic society  is based on the five principal animals traditionally herded: horses, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats. They also keep Tibetan yaks, which are used for producing milk and cheese.

The horse is the most important of the five animals. It is the perfect means of transportation for the terrain. It is also said that children are taught of ride before they can walk. To catch the horse, Mongols use a polo-lasso called

“Uurga” consisting of a rope  loop at the end of a very long pole.  Fermented mares milk, airag, is a favorite drink among Mongolians. Airag can be further distilled in an alcohol called arkhi, Mongolian vodka. Airag is offered as a ritual to visitors in the countryside.  Herders breed the Bactrian camel, which has two humps and is able to endure the extreme weather. The camel, as well as the yak, is used as a beast of burden, especially to transport dismantled gers. In Mongolia, a settled agricultural life has not been possible because herders have to move from one pasture to another. Traditionally, there were four seasonal moves, but now most nomads move only twice year between summer and winter encampments.